The resurgence of Geno Atkins this season following his 2013 ACL tear is a big reason why Cincinnati ranks No. 6 in total defense through their first two games. What's even more impressive is the Bengals held the Raiders and Chargers to a combined 13 points through the first three quarters of each respective game.
Those two teams combined for 70 points in their wins over the Lions and Ravens in opposite weeks, but simply could not find any rhythm against Atkins and the Bengals' defense. That's a contributing factor to why defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is already saying, "I think Geno Atkins has the chance to be a defensive MVP this year."
This past week against San Diego, Atkins recorded three tackles, two QB hurries, three QB hits, and a sack to give him a +5.1 Pro Football Focus grade. At the rate he's going, Atkins is at least going to be in the conversation for NFL Defensive MVP at season's end.
Then again, it's extremely difficult for a defensive tackle to win that award, especially when you've got guys like Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt playing. Just look at 2012 when Atkins had his best season as a pro, but didn't even get a vote for Defensive Player of the Year.
Watt, the NFL's 2012 sacks leader with 20.5 to go with 16 pass deflections, earned 49 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who vote for that award. Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller received the other vote after racking up 18.5 QB takedowns that year.
Atkins had 12.5 sacks that year, but it wasn't enough to even get him in the conversation with those two. As good as Atkins is, he's facing an uphill climb to win this award. But, never say never.