The Cincinnati Bengals are cautiously awaiting the return of arguably their two best players from season-ending injuries in 2013. Leon Hall was playing like one of the best cornerbacks in football when he went down with a torn Achilles Tendon in Week 7.
Geno Atkins had already established himself as the NFL's best defensive tackle when he tore his ACL in Week 9. both player are expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 NFL season.
Hall has stated numerous times hew plans on being on the field and practicing for the first day of training camp.
The same may not be true for Atkins though, according to Bengals.com's Geno Atkins.
Geno’s not saying much, but the thinking is he won’t start practicing on his reconstructed ACL until after training camp starts with the idea they’ll ease him in so he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season.
We probably shouldn't expect to see much of Atkins in the preseason. The Bengals' No. 1 goal is to have both he and Hall at 100% and back on the field Week 1 when they face the Baltimore Ravens.
Prior to going down last year, Atkins had racked up 20 QB hurries (4th on the team) and 6 sacks (2nd on the team) in essentially just 8 games. Had he finished the season, he would have likely led the team in both categories for the second consecutive season.
Despite playing in just 8 games, his 20.5 grade from Pro Football Focus was still the third-highest of any Bengal in 2013, and ended up begin the 11th-best by any defensive tackle.
At the end of the day, the Bengals probably aren't going to win a lot of big games, let alone end a 20+ year playoff-win drought, without him.