Geno Atkins' Impact on Bengals' Run Defense

John Grieshop

It's fair to say Cincinnati will need him if they hope to end a two decade-long playoff win drought.

When people think of Geno Atkins, they often think about one of the greatest interior pass-rushers the NFL has seen in quite sometime.

What often gets overlooked about Atkins is his ability to control the running game as well. Coley Harvey of ESPN analyzed that, and how the loss of Atkins last year impacted the Bengals' run defense more so than it's pass rush.

Whenever Atkins was off the field last season -- both pre- and post-injury -- the Bengals allowed opposing offenses 4.3 yards per carry, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That's a high pace that exceeded the NFL's combined rushing average for the year of 4.17 yards per carry.

What makes the 4.3 figure even more alarming is the fact that Cincinnati gave up just 3.7 yards per rush when Atkins was on the field in 2013. That's a difference of 0.6 yards when he was in a game compared to when he wasn't.

Before Atkins went down, the Bengals allowed 90-plus yards vs. the Packers (182) , the Bills (130) and the Jets (93). After Atkins' injury, Cincinnati's defense allowed 90-plus rushing totals of 157 (at Miami), 102 (Cleveland), 91 (at San Diego), 106 (at Pittsburgh), 115 (Minnesota) and 196 (San Diego, wild-card playoff game).

That's a big reason why NFL.com's Adam Schein put Atkins on his list of the nine most indispensable NFL defensive players.

When the defensive tackle went down with a torn ACL last October, the Bengals' defense lost its bite. There's no defensive lineman more important to his team. It's not even close. That's why he topped this list one year ago.

These Bengals need that guy back -- that's the guy who's indispensable. If Geno Atkins isn't Geno Atkins in 2014, the Bengals fall short. With Andy Dalton at quarterback, the team's success rides on the defense being dominant -- and that will ride on No. 97.

It's not quite fair to say the Bengals' success rides on Atkins. They managed to go 5-2 in their final seven regular season games without him.

But it is fair to say Cincinnati will need him if they hope to end a two decade-long playoff win drought.

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