Geno Atkins is one of the very best at his position and has been for most of his eight-year career. Through nearly two contracts and half a dozen Pro Bowls, his production and impact on the league has began to resonate beyond just his generation.
NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt ranked Atkins 11th in his latest all-time list for defensive tackles. Brandt is known for creating historical lists such as this because of his extensive history with the game. He spent 28 years as the vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys for the 1960s, 70s and all the way to 1988, which may explain Cowboys great Bob Lilly taking his No. 1 ranking on said list.
Regardless, his acumen for the game and its history is well respected through most of the media to this day.
Atkins’ ranking tops all-time greats such as William Perry, Warren Sapp, Alan Page and former Bengal Tim Krumrie. Just behind him at #12 is Aaron Donald, who despite Atkins’ persistent greatness, has overtaken him as the top 3-technique in the NFL today. He’s already caught up to Atkins in number of First-Team All-Pro teams and is established his own ridiculous sack pace. They’re the top two interior pass rushers in the league, and are both climbing the all-time ranks.
Just ahead of Atkins on the list are legends of the game like Curley Culp, John Randle and Cortez Kennedy, all of whom are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With Atkins just barely chasing these legends in legacy and with plenty of years left in the tank for Atkins, it’s a legitimate debate in regards to Atkins’ odds of reaching the same destiny.
He’s on pace to produce like a Hall of Famer at the position, sans any future major injury, and he’ll likely play long enough and establish some sort of “Iron man” status. He’s shown at his peak he was the best at his position and the clear best player on the Bengals defense at the time.
Atkins has dominated his era and was the face of the renaissance of the undersized 3-technique that every team seems to be searching for. If it wasn’t for Atkins, it’s quesitonable whether or not Donald would’ve been drafted as high as he was and given the opportunity to contribute and dominate so early in his now illustrious career.
Though he didn’t exactly change the game, his presence caused teams to start recognizing interior pressure being as dangerous as exterior pressure again, and changed the perception of what that player should or can look like.
A Day 3 draft pick, punished for his lack of size, Atkins stepped in from day one and put the league on notice. Once he got the starting job, there was no turning back.
Atkins’ career hopefully is far from over, and there’s still some work for him to do if he wants to dawn a golden jacket, but on the list of Bengals who could plausibly join Anthony Munoz in football immortality, he’s absolutely at the top of that list, and it’s time we start to take that seriously.