Greatness recognizes greatness.
That's been the case at the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl, where current NFL Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin thinks he could be joined in Canton someday by two current Bengals.
Though he played receiver, Irvin couldn't help but gush about defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who Irvin calls the best three-technique defensive lineman in the game and some who could make it to Canton.
"Bar none," Irvin said after Tuesday’s news conference announcing the co-captains and their teams, via Bengals.com. "Geno is a bad man. Look at him right here. See that right here?
"See that?. Stallion’s kind of legs right there. Skinny little ankles. Muscles a little up the leg. All power. It’s an incredible get for us. Great guy, great dude. And I know the people that helped put the great things in him going back to high school. He’s outrageous and he’s a Florida boy."
But Irvin really knows what it takes to be a great receiver, and he loves what he's routinely seen from A.J. Green.
"For a guy his size, he takes small strides," Irvin said. "He doesn’t take long strides. Small strides mean more ground contact. More ground contact means what? More ability to cut and his ability to transition in and out of cuts, no one in the league is better."
Irvin also said if Green continues on this path, he’ll "absolutely," join him in the Hall of Fame. Green has already been to the Pro Bowl five straight years and is quietly on pace to catch Jerry Rice's Pro Bowl berths (13).
There's really no doubt in my mind both Green and Atkins are currently on a Hall-of-Fame pace in their career. Even Atkins losing half a season due to his ACL tear and then looking like a shell of himself in 2014 isn't enough to overshadow that he's simply been one of the best defensive lineman in the game since 2011.
Atkins likely needs to have at least four more years like his 2015 campaign in order to put himself in consideration for the hall, a Super Bowl win wouldn't hurt either.
As for Green, it's a little harder to say what it will take to get him in. The obvious answer is to just keep playing like he has for 4+ more years, but in today's pass-happy NFL with so many receivers putting up big numbers, it's going to be harder for Green to separate himself from great receivers.
But Irvin isn't just high on those two. Irvin, who will be the alumni captain on the team Atkins is the active player captain on, also loves what he saw this year from Bengals cornerback Adam Jones, who was a late Pro Bowl addition and is someone Irvin wants to grab in the Pro Bowl Draft. Irvin and Jones had dinner a few weeks ago in New York, when Jones was in the city for his appearance on Showtime's Inside the NFL. Jones is also someone Irvin thinks the Bengals must re-sign this offseason, despite what happened in the Wild Card playoff game.
"People are going to talk about what happened at the end of the game and all of that, but he had a great year," Irvin said. "A great year. Adam has done a wonderful job. And I told him that. He took that loss hard. He’s a free-agent. I hope they bring him back. I think he’s found a place he can call home."
He's right. Jones may have made a bad mistake in that playoff game, but he was simply one of the best corners in the NFL this season. If the Bengals truly want to make a run at the Super Bowl next season, re-signing Jones should be at or near the top of their offseason to-do list.