Don't expect to see Geno Atkins playing like a shell of himself again next season.
After a 2014 campaign that saw Atkins fail to live up to the All-Pro level we've all become accustomed to. It was so below him that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther called Atkins out, saying he was "just a guy out there."
Can he be the same Atkins that racked up 18.5 sacks in 25 games prior to tearing his ACL?
Guenther believes he can in 2015, per Coley Harvey:
"I'm confident that he'll come back next year and be the guy that we all know," Guenther said. "After going through the year of working through his injury, I feel confident he's going to come back with a vengeance."
The Bengals hope Atkins can reach his ceiling again too, especially after giving him a six-year deal worth $56 million with $31 million guaranteed. All of those numbers dropped considerably in 2014 to 40 disruptions (four quarterback hits and 36 hurries).
As for Vontaze Burfict, who now faces a similar role Atkins did last year in recovering from a major knee surgery,
"They're two of our marquee players," Guenther said of Atkins and Burfict. "They're a key fit and part of what we do here. As for Geno, we just have to get him back to full strength where he once had it. That would be huge."
It feels like it's been forever since Burfict and Atkins were 100% on the same field, but once they are, the Bengals defense should reach the elite status they've become accustomed to.