The 2018 season is in the rearview mirror, but we still have some time to take a few more peaks back with some offseason recognition. Pro Football Focus releases their list of the top 101 players for each season regardless of position. It is a pretty high honor for players considering the work Pro Football Focus puts in to examining each player.
It isn’t uncommon to see Geno Atkins included in the list. He has pretty much been on it every season that he has been healthy. He has been one of the best interior defensive lineman the NFL has for a while now, but this year the Bengals had added a new name to the list. A name we should see on there plenty more before his career is over.
Tyler Boyd: 63
All it took was a healthy 2018 season (for the most part) for Boyd to finally break through the barrier that so many young receivers face. Boyd ended the year ranked 11th among receivers in receiving grade (85.8), and he generated a passer rating of 127.8 when he was targeted (sixth-best).
Boyd’s 2018 season really came out of nowhere. Sure, he had a few nice games to close out 2017, but aside from his last-second touchdown that knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs, he still hadn’t really shown the potential receiver Cincinnati thought they’d be getting when they drafted him in the second round of the 2016 draft.
2018 became Boyd’s year though. He quickly became Andy Dalton’s safety blanket. He finished with over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. Finishing 11th among receivers in receiving grade just shows how big of a jump Boyd took in his third season.
It was a huge climb for Boyd who was even a healthy scratch once in 2017. Now he is ranked ahead of receivers like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyler Lockett. One may wonder where A.J. Green is, but odds are his season being cut to only nine games (technically eight since he hardly played against Denver) made him either ineligible or his grade inconclusive. It shouldn’t be surprising to see both receivers end up with high honors next season.
As for Atkins, he ended up a little behind Boyd on the final rankings.
Geno Atkins: 79
Along with the rest of the Bengals’ defense, Atkins didn’t quite manage to produce the kind of play that he’s demonstrated in years past. His 24th-ranked overall grade of 83.5 was his lowest mark since 2014, and his eight missed tackles – five more than he missed in 2017 – had a lot to do with it. Despite a down year overall, Atkins was his usual, disruptive self as a pass rusher, producing 64 total pressures on the year.
This is Atkins’ sixth appearance on the list, and it should come as no surprise. Even though it wasn’t one of Atkins better seasons he still dominated opposing offensive lines for most of the season. It really took most of the season for the entire Bengals defense to recover from the mess Teryl Austin made as the team’s new defensive coordinator. It also didn’t help that Carl Lawson was lost early in the season and the Bengals were playing from behind in most weeks. Both aspects hurt Atkins’ ability to produce at his regularly high level.
Atkins was still fifth among interior defensive lineman with 10 sacks on the season. It was the first time he reached double-digit sacks since 2015. Of course as PFF notes, his 64 pressures were quite impressive. It is even more impressive when you think that he could be in an easier situation with possibly a better defensive plan and Lawson back to join Carlos Dunlap.