Geno Atkins is one of the interior pass rushers in the NFL.
Atkins is easily one of the most important players for the Bengals, largely because of the attention he attracts from the offensive line. He also has the ability to blow up a play at any given time.
Atkins has another adjective to add: Unblockable.
Bleacher Report ranks him as the sixth most unblockable pass-rusher in the NFL, who entered the NFL as an undersized defensive tackle out of Georgia that didn’t hear his name called until Round 4.
Eight seasons, 61 sacks and six Pro Bowls later, 31 organizations have been proven wrong—and the Cincinnati Bengals got lucky. As has been the case for shorter defensive tackles from John Randle to Grady Jarrett, Atkins is great when he’s using leverage against a blocker because he gets under the opponent’s pads and just drives him back into the pocket.
The 30-year-old intuits when he’ll face a single-team against a weaker blocker, and he’ll take advantage accordingly. Atkins can split double-teams just as well as he can bull-rush, and his underrated footwork allows him to maneuver through opposing lines with quick counters and spin moves
Atkins really did a great job of showing everyone else they missed out. He has 61 sacks in his career, and he really opened up the idea again that defensive tackles don’t have to be huge piles of weight to throw at the offensive line. Leverage is a huge part of who wins up front in the trenches, and it is almost impossible to win the leverage battle with Atkins.
It is also important to remember this is all pass rushers and not just interior. Some of the names ahead of Atkins include Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald and Von Miller. Considering his competition, Atkins’ place at sixth is quite the accomplishment.
Atkins is also one of the older players on the list in addition to being one of the lowest drafted. He is actually ranked right ahead of Joey Bosa who only entered the league last season. Last year, it was apparent the Bengals are adjusting to try and preserve Atkins a little bit more as well as keep him fresher later into the game.
After playing in over 70 percent of snaps the past two seasons, Atkins only played in roughly 65 percent in 2017. The Bengals adopted more of a rotational approach to the defensive line, which allowed Atkins to get more of a breather during the games. Despite this, he was still able to record nine sacks, matching his 2016 total.
It has been fun to watch Atkins grow from a relative unknown into a highly touted player around the league. Hopefully, an extension gets done, and we can watch him in stripes the rest of his career.