The Bengals are 6-0 thanks to a number of players playing at a very high level.
There are so many players performing at such a high level that we had to divide our Pro Bowl consideration series into one article for offense and one for defense. The offense gets most of the praise, and rightfully so as they rank at or near the top in most offensive categories. However, you cannot overlook what the Bengals' defense has done through the first six games. They've made dramatic improvements in several areas that have been key to several of the Bengals' narrow wins this season.
Here's a look at which Bengals defensive players we feel deserve consideration for this year's Pro Bowl after six weeks of the season.
DT Geno Atkins
It's safe to say Geno is back to being Geno after spending most of 2014 just getting healthy and recovering from his 2013 ACL tear. Atkins is back to being a force in the middle that few teams are capable of handling. He's also Pro Football Focus' fifth-best interior defensive lineman.
A big reason why is Atkins is performing at a level comparable to the best interior pass-rushers in football, as evidenced by his four sacks through six games to go with 18 total tackles. He's a monster that once again looks like the best 4-3 defensive tackle there is, and he should find his way back to the Pro Bowl.
DE Carlos Dunlap
As good as Atkins has been, you could make an argument that Carlos Dunlap has been the best Bengals defensive lineman through six games. After all, Dunlap is leading the NFL with 6.5 sacks entering Week 6 to go with 24 total tackles and two pass deflections.
At his current pace, Dunlap will finish this season with 19 sacks, 3.5 shy of Michael Strahan's NFL record of 22.5 in a single season. Even when Dunlap isn't getting a sack, he's constantly placing pressure on opposing quarterbacks and making life hard on them. He's also PFF's 12th-raked edge defender out of 148 qualified players. There's no reason Dunlap shouldn't be playing in the Pro Bowl if he keeps this pace up.
CB/Returner Adam Jones
In what should be the twilight of his career, Adam Jones may be having his best season as a pro. He's easily been the Bengals' best defensive back through the first six weeks, and someone the Bengals aren't afraid to put on opposing team's No. 1 receiver and feel confident about.
Jones has held just about every receiver in check that he's gone against this season, often forcing quarterbacks to go to their second or third option. At that point, it makes it easier for the Cincinnati defensive line to rack up their 17 sacks, tied for the sixth most of any team.
As for Jones, he's grabbed two interceptions, forced a fumble and racked up 32 tackles thus far. He's not afraid to lay the wood in run support and is as physical of a corner as you'll find. All of this helps PFF rank Jones as their sixth-best cornerback, but that's not all he's good at.
Jones is once again the Bengals' best returner on special teams as well. Jones' 12.1 yards per punt return is the seventh-best rate of any player. His 27.6 yards per kickoff return would be the fifth best of any player if he qualified* for it. All of this will make a good case for Jones to be in this season's Pro Bowl.
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*Note: To qualify, a player must have at least 1 punt return per game played.