Going into the 2010 offseason, there were mixed feelings about the Cincinnati Bengals. They had just come off of an improbable playoff berth by sweeping the AFC North, but they also had what would become the oh-so-familiar one-and-done exit from the postseason the prior year.
Even though the 2010 season ended up being a massive disappointment overall for the team, the Bengals’ draft class from that spring netted a couple of major players who would define the team over the next decade. Second-round choice Carlos Dunlap was one, but a diamond in the fourth round rough in Geno Atkins was another.
For many reasons, Atkins is not only one of the best players on the current roster, of the Marvin Lewis era and one to ever don a Bengals uniform, but he is cementing himself into Hall of Fame discussion.
Stats and accolades under Marvin Lewis:
Sacks: 61 (second-highest in team history*)
Forced fumbles: 8 (fifth-highest in team history)
Tackles: 190 (third-highest in team history by an interior defensive lineman)
Pro Bowls: 6 (2011-2012, 2014-2017)
All-Pro designations: 3 (2011-2012, 2015)
Why he makes the list:
A dominant player at a position of rising importance in the NFL: If there are two positions that have become en vogue recently in the NFL, it’s in useful slot receivers and interior linemen who can get to the passer with frequency. It just so happens that not only can Atkins do the latter, but he is also quite helpful against the run.
Atkins is frequently mentioned within the top three players at his position in today’s NFL and for good reason. He makes a number of big plays in the middle of the Bengals’ defense and is one of the best players this team has ever fielded.
His impact on the Bengals’ defense: Many folks rightfully point to how the Bengals’ defense plays without linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the lineup, but the truth is that Atkins truly makes everything work on that side of the ball. Whether it’s in freeing up Dunlap and other edge rushers for one-on-one opportunities as he is double-teamed, or by opening up gaps for guys like Burfict to shoot through in the run game, Atkins is immeasurably invaluable to this team.
Pro Football Focus’ metrics: Even though he was viewed as undersized when he came into the NFL, Atkins has mastered the use of leverage. He has used a lethal combination of his low center of gravity, massive strength and sound technique to make many offensive linemen look silly.
Many of today’s NFL fans are fans of PFF’s metrics and for good reason. If you look up Atkins’ scores on their charts—be it weekly or yearly—he’s almost always at the top for players at his position.
The stats do and don’t lie: Unfortunately for interior NFL defensive linemen, they have to absolutely wow folks with their stats to get recognition. It’s an unfair stigma, but it is what it is.
In terms of tackles, Atkins isn’t a machine in the category that Tim Krumrie was. However, when it comes to pressures, sacks and overall value to the club, No. 97 is in a class of his own.