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What is there to say about the defensive line as a whole in Cincinnati other than it is the best unit in the NFL?
Defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are a big part of that. The former was just brought back on a six-year deal and the latter was hit with the franchise tag and will play for a new contract.
Dunlap, owner of seven sacks in 2012, has spent time the past few years rotating with veteran Robert Geathers because of his lack of effectiveness against the run. That won’t have to change right away this season now that Geathers was brought back on an three-year deal.
Johnson bulked up last offseason to better prepare himself for run-stopping duty and responded with a 11.5 sack, 53 total tackle campaign that saw him ranked as the No. 13 overall player at defensive end in the NFL last season according to ProFootballFoucs (subscription required).
Wallace Gilberry was a nice surprise last season with 6.5 sacks and returns in a rotational role.
He’ll continue to produce, as Mike Zimmer’s scheme tends to do that for ends, like it did for Jonathan Fanene in 2009 and 2011 with sixth sacks before exiting the NFL one year later.
The newcomer to the group is second-round rookie Margus Hunt, a newcomer to football who has only played for a few years.
There may not be a more athletic player on the team, but from a football technique standpoint, he is as raw as it gets. He’ll see duty on special teams in the hopes he can block kicks and punts at 6’8” and 277 pounds.
All in all, the line remains the deepest and most productive unit in Cincinnati for another year.
Position Grade: A+