That was most evident with how badly Geno Atkins was embarrassing Raiders lineman at times as he looked like the All-Pro tackle who could not be stopped before his ACL tear. After a sub-par 2014 season by his standards, Geno looked like the old Geno during Sunday's win, which could be the biggest addition Cincinnati made between last year and this season.
The Raiders tried to neutralize the Bengals' pass-rushers by using quick passes to get rid of the ball, which seemed like a good idea in theory.
Too bad Atkins dominated the game anyway, and he got nice support from Carlos Dunlap as well. This play saw both guys blow by their man to get in the face of the QB almost as quickly as he completed his dropback:
Look at how fast Atkins' burst off the line is. We rarely saw him with that kind of burst last year as he was coming back from his ACL tear.
The same was true of Atkins on this play as he got great burst off the line to pressure the QB almost as soon as he completed his dropback:
Atkins finally gets home on this play as he beats the double team to sack and strip the QB before Michael Johnson recovered it.
Dunlap also got good pressure on the play, which was the case on several occasions. On no play was it more evident than on this one:
That was a shotgun snap to a two-step dropback for the QB. Outside of getting a free rush off the line, even getting a hand on the QB in that instance is very hard to do. Not only does Dunlap beat his man, but also manages to hit the QB legally in the process.
Dunlap got home on the next play for his only sack of the game in what was a similar scenario:
What made their performances even better was how quickly Raiders quarterbacks were getting rid of the ball. According to Pro Football Focus, Derek Carr was getting rid of the ball in an average of 2.3 seconds, the seventh-quickest rate of any QB in Week 1.
Carr only played 13 dropbacks before being injured and leaving Matt McGloin to get the remaining 33 dropbacks. He got the ball out even quicker with an average of 1.97 seconds, which was tied with Tom Brady for the fastest of any QB in Week 1. Even better was that both sacks came against McGloin on plays in which McGloin had 2.5 seconds or less before he was taken down.
If Dunlap and Atkins can keep producing like this every week, couple with how well the secondary played after they had a strong 2014 season, there's no reason to not expect this defense to be top-10 material this year.