As a whole the Bengals have been very impressive. The offense is being led by two rookies in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, along with veterans Cedric Benson, Bobbie Williams, and Andrew Whitworth. The defense has been one of the best defenses in the league for a majority of the season. And the performance of the defense is due to some vital players stepping up their game and for defensive tackle Geno Atkins, his hard work is paying off.
In the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft the Bengals selected Atkins. During his rookie season he compiled 16 tackles and three sacks in 16 games. He had a respectable season. He showed signs of being a key contributor down the road.
This season Atkins has busted out of his shell as he leads NFL defensive tackles with 6.5 sacks. During the fourth quarter of this past Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, Atkins sacked quarterback Colt McCoy to jump ahead of Oakland's Richard Seymour in sacks by a defensive tackle. So far through 11 games Atkins has 32 tackles, one fumble recovery, and more importantly 6.5 sacks. His play this season has impressed defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
Zimmer has noted that Atkins is stronger in comparison to his rookie campaign. And that's the direction you want your players to head in. Rookies are suppose to grow and learn after their rookie season. It's all part of the development process. And for Atkins the results are showing. Who would have guessed that he would rank 20th in the league and lead all defensive tackles in sacks?
Atkins' game against the run has improved since the conclusion of the 2010 season. His ability to defend the pass hasn't declined in the process. And sometimes that can be the case, a defensive player focuses on improving one part of their game only to see another decline. But that hasn't been the case as Atkins has shown the ability to defend both the pass and rush. Hopefully Atkins finishes the season on top in sacks among defensive tackles.