Gil Brandt, a senior analyst with NFL.com, is prepping midseason grades and lists, exploring players playing at the top of their respective positions as we reach Week Eight of the 2012 regular season. The first set hits the trenches, otherwise known as the purest form of football.
Ranking the top-five defensive linemen, Brandt ranks Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins at No. 4.
Atkins underachieved somewhat at Georgia, but those days are behind him. Very powerful and quick, Atkins has seven sacks in seven games this season after totaling 7.5 in a breakout 2011 campaign.
Among the top-five defensive linemen he lists, Atkins is the only defensive tackle, grouped with players like Houston's J.J. Watt, New York's Jason Pierre-Paul, Dallas's DeMarcus Ware and Minnesota's Jared Allen.
As we pointed out in our Five By Five earlier this morning, Atkins is dominating the league compared to other defensive tackles according to Pro Football Focus.
Atkins was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft; the same draft that No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh entered the league. And while Suh has received the endorsements and attention, largely for non-football related reasons, Atkins keeps plugging away as one of the league's best defensive tackles.