The prospect of Geno Atkins becoming the player who earned a spot on the first-team All-Pro squad in 2012 is significant. The story is well-documented: Generating 12.5 sacks in 2012 (and 20 sacks between 2011 and 2012) Atkins set the stage for a fast-track nomination as one of the greatest active players, leading to a five-year extension that paid $53.327 million. Atkins had it all. He was a godsend.
Yet as the Hollywood script played out, there were the eventual trials and tribulations. An ACL injury limited Atkins to nine quarterback sacks in the last 25 games played. Despite earning a spot on the 2015 Pro Bowl (as a third alternate), Atkins' injury caused enough concern to warrant "will he get back to his previous form" questions.
Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes thinks he has already. "Scary," Hayes said via Bengals.com. "It’s scary how fast and explosive he is right now. I think he has the confidence that he has his legs under him. He feels like he did." Observers attending the team's OTA sessions had already noticed an improved Atkins, moving a lot better than last year. "You can see it,’ said Hayes on Tuesday. "He looks like himself. He looks as quick and as fast I’ve seen him."
"He looks as good as any guy we've got on our team. On the defensive side at least," Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said via Bengals.com. "He’s real explosive. He looks strong. He looks as good as he’s ever had. I’m proud of the way he’s come back. He gives us a huge boost. Huge. You're talking about one of the elite players in the league."