Carlos Dunlap isn't one of the lucky NFL players preparing this week for conference championship games, but his rookie year with the Cincinnati Bengals indicates plenty of good things ahead.
Dunlap, a former defensive lineman for the Patriots at Fort Dorchester High School as well as the University of Florida, finished the 2010 season with 9 1/2 sacks -- all collected in the final seven games of the season.
Dunlap finished second among NFL rookies in sacks behind Detroit's Ndamukong Suh and established a Bengals record for sacks in one season by a rookie.
"I got my opportunities to get on the field, and all I did was try to capitalize," Dunlap told reporters in Cincinnati after the Bengals' regular season finale.
His first NFL sack was memorable, against Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
"Big-time players are supposed to make big-time plays," Dunlap said. "All we do is come out and try to get after them, do whatever it takes to get off the field and give the offense back the ball.
"You have to have that type of confidence. At first, I was getting one-on-one blocks, so I know I'm a pass rusher, and you aren't supposed to be able to stop me, so I have to bring my best move. I have an obligation as an NFL athlete to do that."
Expect to see Dunlap as a unanimous pick on NFL all-rookie teams, and double-digit sacks in 2011.