Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins is slowly progressing towards an eventuality... being this team's most disruptive force. Don't get me wrong... Vontaze Burfict is the quarterback of the defense and a tackling machine. But Atkins is a major disruption against opposing defenses, single-handedly stalling possessions and giving the defense an injection of top-five swag.
Coming into Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens, Atkins had generated only eight tackles and a shared sack in six games combined. In the last two games, both wins, Atkins has a combined 10 tackles, a forced fumble, a quarterback sack and a pass defensed. Pro Football Focus easily graded Atkins' performance against the Jaguars as his best this season, scoring an overall grade of +3.1, with a season-high +2.4 against the run. In fact, it was collectively his best score since week six in 2013.
Atkins was a force against the Jaguars but more importantly, he showed the same athleticism and strength that he had last year prior to his knee injury.
With 4:20 remaining in the second quarter, the Jaguars had first down from their own 20-yard line. Jaguars' quarterback Blake Bortles handed off to Denard Robinson on a "stretch-like" run to the right. Atkins faught off his blocker and navigated down the line of scrimmage, making the tackle that caused a one-yard loss.
Now the Jaguars were behind schedule.
Atkins played 47 defensive snaps against the Jaguars, which accounts for 75 percent of the team's defensive snaps. He posted a season-high six tackles, a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage and two additional pressures.
What I thought was impressive, occurred at the 13:48 mark in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars had first down from their own 25-yard line. Quarterback Bortles scrambled out of the pocket and Atkins tracked him down.
That's a man that's insanely confident on his surgically repaired knee.
Even when he's not making tackles, Atkins is pressing the offensive lineman into the backfield and forcing the running back to redirect, such as this second and six play with 14:12 remaining in the first.
With 1:02 remaining in the second, Atkins applied the bullrush but couldn't reach the quarterback in time. As defensive linemen are taught, he put up an arm to knock down the pass. Atkins did just that and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur was unable to secure the interception (like two other times, too).
Atkins' recovery continues to be a major theme this season. And as the year has unfolded, we're seeing more and more of the old Atkins coming to the forefront.