It was a long five weeks for the Cincinnati Bengals, and maybe a bye is what they needed.
The team started 0-3, and all the talk was about how little of a chance the Bengals had at a postseason. The team then won two games, and they remain in the hunt for the division title with a game against the Steelers this week.
Before we get to that though let’s hand out some awards for the Bengals so far during this season.
The Bengals’ defense has been playing lights out this season, and it is due to several players. Cincinnati is ranked second in the league in points per game and yards per game allowing 16.6 points per game and 262.8 yards per game. Also, at the end of Week 5, the Bengals ranked second in sacks.
Let’s take a look at what defensive player has been the MVP for this team so far as well as some honorable mentions.
Carl Lawson: The Bengals defense is younger than it has been probably ever since Marvin Lewis came to the Bengals. Lewis has long been known to hate playing rookies, and the last player to play regularly as a rookie on defense was Vontaze Burfict.
That makes Lawson’s season that much more surprising. The team started playing him more in Week 3 after the team started 0-2. He exploded on the scene by sacking Aaron Rodgers 2.5 (technically 3.5 but one was called back due to a penalty).
He has been wreaking havoc on quarterbacks ever since. It is clear the team plans to get Lawson on the field in passing situations as much as possible. His emergence has even led the team to play Michael Johnson at the defensive tackle position to get Lawson more snaps.
Lawson currently has 3.5 sacks through five games, and it is hard to see him not breaking Carlos Dunlap’s rookie record of 9.5 sacks.
Nick Vigil: Vigil had a tough task to start off the season. Burfict was suspended the first three games, so he played with Vincent Rey by his side for three games. He had to be the anchor in the middle of the defense in his second season, and he answered the call. He had 22 tackles and an interception over the first three games. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to lead the Bengals to a victory.
Since Burfict has come back, Vigil has been amazing. He has 21 tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and a pass defense in the past two games. Against the Browns, he was tasked with playing the deep middle in coverage, and when the Browns dumped it off, he had to tackle them in the open field before they reached the marker. He did it time and time again.
The Bengals defense’s future is bright with Vigil at linebacker.
Geno Atkins: Atkins makes this Bengals defense what it is. If he wasn’t in the middle of this defensive line, it makes everyone else’s job that much harder. When opposing teams take on the Bengals, they know they have to double team Atkins almost every play.
Atkins has helped this defense reach 18 sacks by allowing players like Lawson to take advantage of one-on-one blocks, But Atkins also leads the team in sacks with four. He also leads all defensive tackles with four sacks.
While players like Burfict provide vocal leadership, Atkins leads by example by quietly dominating offensive lines all year. He has taken on more of a mentor role this year with players like Lawson, Ryan Glasgow and Jordan Willis, though. Considering Burfict only played in two of the Bengals five games it was pretty easy to make Atkins the MVP.
I mean just watch these plays and tell me he isn’t the Defensive MVP.
Geno Atkins shuts down McCoy on 3rd-1 forcing the Bills to punt. pic.twitter.com/mtL8FDOn8i— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) October 8, 2017