HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 07: Quarterback T.J. Yates #13 of the Houston Texans runs the ball and attempts to avoid a tackle by Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the second quarter during their 2012 AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Reliant Stadium on January 7, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
We reported earlier this week that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and owner Mike Brown were named to ESPN AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley's All-AFC North team for the jobs they did throughout the 2011 season.Today, Hensley announced his All-AFC North defensive team, which contains two Bengals defensive linemen: defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
Dunlap missed some time this season with a hamstring injury and he didn't come close to repeating his 9.5 sack performance from 2010, but he still was the best Bengals defender at pressuring the quarterback.
Carlos Dunlap, Bengals. Tough call over Pittsburgh's Brett Keisel. Before being slowed by a hamstring injury, Dunlap was getting to the quarterback like no other defensive end in the division. Despite missing four games, he recorded 4.5 sacks and led the Bengals with 27 quarterback pressures, which was four more than anyone else on the team.
Geno Atkins, another second-year player, had a great season. He led the team in sacks with 7.5, and he vastly improved his run defense and earned a spot as a starter on the line. Atkins is currently in Hawaii practicing for the 2012 Pro Bowl.
Geno Atkins, Bengals. While the Bengals' run defense faltered in the second half of the season, their front four pressured the quarterback like no other in the AFC North and perhaps the league. And Atkins was a huge part of that by collapsing the pocket up the middle. He tied Oakland's Tommy Kelly for sacks by an interior lineman in the NFL with 7.5. He is the first Bengals interior lineman to top the team in sacks since 1996, when Dan Wilkinson led with 6.5.
The rest of the 2011 All-AFC North defensive team is made up of players mostly from the Steelers and the Ravens with a couple Browns players sprinkled in. With the youth of some of the best Bengals defensive linemen and with a couple additions, especially to the secondary, the Bengals can have one of the league's elite defenses in the coming seasons.