Seven snaps, two great plays: Seahawks’ Carlos Dunlap tries to make the most of the diminished role

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SEATTLE – Carlos Dunlap II played both a big and small role in the Seattle Seahawks taking their three-game losing streak on Sunday. The 12-year-old defensive end recorded a game-tying safety in the third quarter, then beat Jimmy Garoppolo’s fourth-down pass away near the finish line in the final seconds to retain a 30-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

It was a remarkable achievement for two related reasons. Until Sunday, Dunlap had produced almost nothing during his disappointing second season in Seattle. As a result, he has seen his role reduced significantly to the point that he only played seven snaps against San Francisco.

And boy did he get them to count.

“It’s frustrating,” Dunlap said of having played so sparingly in recent weeks. “This is new to me in my career, but the coaches have communicated that it is the role they want for me and want for me. So I took advantage of it and focused on seizing those opportunities, and today … I made something happen. “

When the Seahawks (4-8) re-signed Dunlap in March for $ 13.6 million over two years, they thought it would get the most out of his 32-year-old body by limiting his snaps and using him in more situational roles. . They would not rely nearly as much on him as they used to rely on Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, who regularly played more than three-quarters of the snaps. Dunlap was that kind of faithful in most of his more than 10 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals before Seattle traded for him in October 2020.

But no one imagined the Seahawks would keep their highest paid defensive lineman on the bench as often as they have been doing lately. Dunlap’s snap counts over the past month have gone from 39 (51%) to 31 (42%) to 17 (20%) to four (5%) to seven (12%).

“I’m used to playing over 60% of the schnapps my whole career, and I have a cohesive array of being healthy,” he said. “So I want to keep doing that because I feel like a rhythm rusher, that it’s easiest to get started when you have more options.”

After answering several postgame questions about his diminished role, Dunlap sounded ready for a change of subject, saying he did not want to detract from Seattle’s victory. At one point, he asked fans to pray a prayer for safety Jamal Adams, who left the match with a potentially serious shoulder injury that ended up being the season finale. He also volunteered to support his “dog” Gerald Everett, after the tight end lost two fumbles and bubbled an upcoming touchdown straight to a defender to be intercepted.

“I know how he feels right now,” Dunlap said.

It seemed like a reference to his own blunder three weeks earlier in Seattle’s shutout loss to the Green Bay Packers. In the fourth quarter of a 3-0 match, Dunlap picked up a Packers player’s shoe at the end of a game and threw it into excitement. It drew an unsportsmanlike behavior penalty that turned a third-and-3 from the 42’s into a first downturn from 27.

It got gifs of Austin Powers asking, “Who’s throwing a shoe, honestly?” It also really hurt when Green Bay scored a touchdown seven games later to go up to 10-0.

To his credit, Dunlap apologized to the team, after which he owned up to the error in his comments to journalists and on social media. It had to be particularly regrettable considering how little he had produced to the point of having such an impact in the second half of last season, where his arrival helped ignite the Seahawks’ pass-rush.

So again, no one in that group has lit up this season. Darrell Taylor, who has had a good debut season, leads the team with five sacks. Rasheem Green is next with three. Dunlap is tied for third place with 1.5, his first full sack coming on safety. Adams has none after setting the record for defensive backs with 9.5 last year.

The Seahawks are 20th in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate (39.8%), 31st in sacks per game. dropback (3.7%) and draw in 30th place in sacks with 19.

So much for the expectation that their pass-rush would be a strength. It has been the one part of their resurgent defense that has not started. Dunlap’s safety was the Seahawks’ lone sack on Sunday and one of only three official hits they got at Garoppolo.

He said the coaching staff tried to sell him on his new role as something they have seen benefit former Seattle pass rushers.

“You’re trying to create situations where they can get money for the money and they can really make an impact when they get their chances,” coach Pete Carroll said. “For the number of games he had yesterday, it was phenomenal to have the influence he had in the game. He was challenged a bit by it and he jumped at it and did a great job. He answered the call, came through and really helped us win the football match. “

Dunlap is among several veterans whose future in Seattle is uncertain, if not in doubt. He is set to earn $ 5.1 million without a guarantee by 2022. That would be steep for someone playing as sparingly as he has been, especially if the Seahawks undergo a major restructuring of the roster.

Dunlap does not think Sunday’s performance will give him more playing time. It probably should. Then again, he looked nice and fresh on his two big games, both his first of each drive. He overpowered right tackle Tom Compton on safety and drove Compton back as he got his left hand in front of Garoppolo’s last pass, which was heading towards an open 49ers receiver at the finish line.

“All sorts of pros and cons of it, so I’ve just tried to be a really good teammate and deliver what I have to do when I get called on,” Dunlap said. “So that’s what I’ve been working on doing, and that’s what’s been so frustrating so far. I’ve not been able to deliver it. But I’m staying engaged in the role and putting in the same work and shooting. at every opportunity, when given to me. “

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