CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 27: Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates a sack of Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns during their game at Paul Brown Stadium on November 27, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Browns 23-20. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
What a year defensive tackle Geno Atkins had in 2011. He started to flash his potential as a rookie in 2010 when he was in the lineup as a rotational player. He earned the starting tackle spot in 2011 after players like Tank Johnson departed and the team wanted to get younger at the position. Atkins burst on the scene and earned his first Pro Bowl berth in just his second season.
He is now being mentioned in the same breath as such monsters like Ndamukong Suh and Haloti Ngata. The thing about Atkins is that he does everything well. Some wrongly credit only his pass-rushing ability as the reason for his success. It's easy to point there, as he had 7.5 sacks last season at the position. But, Atkins is also quite a force against the run. He consistently beats his blockers and gets into the backfield to disrupt running plays as well.
In addition to the 7.5 sacks, he also accounted for two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 47 total tackles. With injury issues hitting the defensive line to players like Carlos Dunlap and Pat Sims, Atkins stepped up and became a leader on the defensive unit. He's entering a critical third year and could be in line for a contract extension off of his initial rookie deal.
All in all, Atkins has become a dominant three-down defensive tackle in the NFL. If he puts up the numbers he did last year, we could see another top-ten ranked defense and another trip to Hawaii for Atkins in 2012.