Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth have made the Associated Press' 2015 First Team All Pro roster, a great honor. Safety Reggie Nelson also made the list with a second team honor.
It's been a banner year for the Bengals in 2015, who are looking to make it even more special this Saturday night when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Wild Card round. As a team, they broke a franchise record with an 8-0 start to the season and tied another franchise mark with 12 regular-season wins this year.
Individual accolades are coming fast and furious as well. Cincinnati had five of its players named to the Pro Bowl, tied for the fifth-most by an NFL team this year. On Friday, The Associated Press announced its annual All-Pro Team and two of the five players headed to the Pro Bowl are also on a list of the league's best.
Predictably, defensive tackle Geno Atkins made the list after a stellar bounce-back season in 2015. Atkins was obviously still trying to get his legs under him in 2014 after he rushed back into the lineup from a knee injury he suffered Halloween night of 2013. He once again played in all 16 games this season, racking up 11 quarterback sacks--the second-highest single-season total in his career. He also had 42 total tackles and a forced fumble on the year.
However, as it often goes with the inglorious position that is defensive tackle, Atkins' effect on the Bengals' defense goes far beyond those numbers. His standout play, along with Michael Johnson's at defensive end, has helped pave the way for career-best seasons from fellow defensive tackle Domata Peko and defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Atkins also is very disruptive against the run, a category in which the Bengals ranked seventh in yards allowed per game. In case you're a Pro Football Focus buff, Atkins and A.J. Green were second-team All-Pro's on their list, while Andrew Whitworth got an honorable mention.
Speaking of Whitworth, after he and the Bengals got off on the wrong foot this offseason with Cincinnati drafting two offensive tackles in the first two rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft, Whitworth signed a one-year extension to remain with the club through 2016 and had one of his best professional seasons.
He was a linchpin in Andy Dalton's best season as a pro in 2015, and contributed to the team's No. 8 ranking in sacks allowed this year. Cincinnati's team passer rating of 104.1, good for No. 2 in the NFL, is also a testament to Whitworth's work this year. This is Whitworth's first time getting an All Pro designation from the AP.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made the All-Pro team after missing all of 2014 due to a suspension, while Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders made the list at two positions (outside linebacker, defensive end), a first for the list. NFL media darlings J.J. Watt and Rob Gronkowski made the list at defensive end and tight end, respectively, and Seattle Seahawks' rookie wide receiver and return man, Tyler Lockett, made it as a specialist. Lockett is the only rookie to make the list.
One other thing that might stick in the craw of Bengals' fans is the selection of Steelers' offensive guard David DeCastro. If you remember, the Bengals eschewed taking DeCastro in the draft back in 2012, moved back and then selected current guard Kevin Zeitler. The Bengals still have a good guard in Zeitler, but it's an interesting aspect to note.
Here is the list of the All-Pro selections:
QB: Cam Newton, Panthers
RB: Adrian Peterson, Vikings; Doug Martin, Buccaneers
FB: Mike Tolbert, Panthers
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
T: Andrew Whitworth, Bengals; Joe Thomas, Browns
C: Ryan Kalil, Panthers
DE: J.J. Watt, Texans; Khalil Mack, Raiders
K: Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
P: Johnny Hekker, Rams
KR: Tyler Lockett, Seahawks