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Atkins Ranked As One Of NFL's Top Ten Defensive Players

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Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins has blossomed into an NFL star in his first season as a starter. We saw flashes of his ability in 2010, when he put up three sacks and multiple pressures even though his play was limited because he was mostly used on the defense's third down packages.

This year he's been a league leader for sacks among NFL defensive tackles for most of the season and a catalyst on a productive Bengals defensive line. Well today there's some good news and bad news surrounding Atkins. First, the bad news:

Last week, Atkins recorded a half sack along with teammate Robert Geathers. The significance of this half sack for Atkins? It tied him with "Big Daddy" Dan Wilkinson for the franchise record for sacks by a defensive tackle, as well as giving him the outright NFL lead in sacks by a defensive tackle this season.

Unfortunately, after the Bengals' video department reviewed the Ravens game tape from January 1st, it was determined that the sack would officially be given to Michael Johnson and Jonathan Fanene, leaving Atkins half a sack shy of both the franchise record and the NFL sack lead by a defensive tackle while finishing with seven and a half. The redistributed sack to Fanene and Johnson gives them six and six and a half sacks, respectively, and just shows how deep this 2011 Bengals defensive line is.

Now, the good news. Our friends at Pro Football Focus have just released their top ten defensive players in the NFL, based on their unparalleled statistical system. Atkins comes in at No.10 with respectable names like Darelle Revis, Patrick Willis and Troy Polamalu on the list (take note of who's No.1 on that list). Here's what PFF had to say:

This is a game of hype unfortunately and when you see a player like Atkins not make the Pro Bowl you know he’s either not playing in the right market or not been drafted high enough. Consider this; last year Ndamaukong Suh was apparently setting a new mark for tackle play. His 41 total quarterback disruptions boosted by his 11 sacks in 543 rushes was considered unbelievable by many and they were all prepared to forget his quite awful play against the run in the frantic haste to anoint him as the next coming.

This year Atkins has 48 disruptions (including nine sacks) in 453 rushes and nary is a word said. Then take into account that he’s had a good year as a run defender. He’s not a Broderick Bunkley or Alan Branch in that regard, but of the "pass rushing tackles" only Richard Seymour comes close and he’s not as productive as Atkins while being far more combustible with his 11 flags.

Atkins is the PFF poster child for why hype is so dangerous when used as it is now; the equivalent of leaving my nine year old at home with a flame thrower and expecting to come back with the smoke alarm unused. Those people who didn’t vote Atkins to the Pro Bowl, write 100 times "I must try harder next year".

Let's hope that Atkins gets the "hype" next year so that he earns his rightful spot in the Pro Bowl. The sky is apparently the limit for Atkins, as indicated by his improvement this year off of an impressive rookie campaign. If the Bengals continue to get solid line play around him, Atkins could be a force for many years on the Bengals defensive line.