Veterans Dunlap, Atkins take different approaches to decreased snaps

Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor describes the limited playing time for defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap as two very different situations.

According to national media, Atkins and Dunlap have both requested trades. One of those is not a surprise.

Dunlap has made his frustrations known publicly since he was demoted from a starting defensive end role to a third-down situational pass rusher. He questioned the coaches' decision Oct. 8 in a Zoom news conference with media, posted the depth chart for the Week 7 matchup against Cleveland on Instagram the day before the 37-34 loss, was seen getting into a verbal argument on the sidelines at the end of the game and then posted his house going up for sale while other players were still conducting post-game interviews.

Atkins, who isn’t as active on Twitter and Instagram and doesn’t speak to media, apparently sees the writing on the wall for himself, too, as the Bengals are moving forward with younger players, but the 32-year-old tackle has gone about his business without making a scene.

Taylor said he’s had good conversations with Atkins about his role, as he continues to work back from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the first four games. He’s still be limited in his snap count and only played 12 snaps Sunday.

“It is as simple as that,” Taylor said when asked if his playing time is impacted by a slow easing back from the injury. “Again, I know that’s where he feels comfortable right now, just getting him those limited snaps. It could increase on a weekly basis. The conversations I’ve had with Geno are outstanding. Geno is a class act. He’s working way his back. It’s his third week now. He’s getting those snaps on known passing situations. We keep moving him along as we see fit. Again, Geno and I have had some really good conversations. He’s a class act.”

Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo echoed that, indicating Atkins “is on the same page with (the staff) in terms of his playing time.”

Taylor and Anarumo are keeping conversations with Dunlap – who since deleted his house listing tweet – internal. The trade deadline is less than a week away, and the Bengals have until Nov. 3 to make a move if they wish and are able to find a team willing to pull the trigger on the 31-year-old defensive end, who is under contract through 2021 and making about $13.55 million a year.

“From every player we just want everyone who is invested and doing everything that we ask them to do,” Taylor said when asked what he needs to see from Dunlap.

Tight end Drew Sample said outsiders are painting the wrong picture of the Bengals locker room right now amid a 1-5-1 record that has everyone frustrated but not defeated.

“For us, we know the type of team we are,” Sample said. “Unfortunately right now, we don’t have a lot of wins. We have a lot of losses. The media, no offense to you guys, you guys (are) looking for ways to kind of tear us apart. I know in our locker room, we all support Zac. We know we’re close. As monotonous as that sounds, we are close. We’re a few plays (away) on either side of the ball, on special teams, whatever it is, from winning more games. For us, Zac does a really good job of refocusing us, making sure we’re onto the next week. We gotta just learn. … Everything that coach Taylor has done has been able to keep us together. I know guys are supportive of him. I know the type of locker room and the type of players we have. We all are doing everything we can to put another win in our win column.”

The vocal support for Taylor seems to lean heavily on offensive players, though linebacker Josh Bynes recently has spoken up about the positive culture in the locker room as well.

Defensively, the Bengals are a bit of a mess overall, though. They’ve allowed 68 points over the last two games, including a 31-27 loss to Indianapolis after leading 21-0 early in the second quarter, and they have not been able to get stops at the end of halves and games. There were five go-ahead touchdowns scored between the Browns and Bengals in the second half Sunday, and the defense allowed the game-winning score with 16 seconds left after the offense had taken the lead at the 1:06 mark.

Taylor said he is still confident in Anarumo and what he’s doing. It’s also notable the Bengals have been injury-plagued on the defensive line and without two of three starting cornerbacks in half the games, as Trae Waynes has been out all season and Mackensie Alexander and William Jackson have missed three games between them.

SUNDAY’S GAME

Titans at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

In Other News