For the better part of the last decade, the Bengals’ roster has been supported by its two undeniably elite talents in A.J. Green and Geno Atkins. But are the days of Green and Atkins’ dominance numbered?
Recently, Pro Football Focus recently put out their top 50 players in the NFL, and Bengals fans were (rightfully) upset to find that neither Green or Atkins anywhere on the list. PFF’s methodology is obviously different compared to other major media outlets though, which makes the absence of Green and Atkins a little more alarming since this is backed by meaningful data.
When examining who did make the list at the same positions as Green and Atkins, just five wide receivers and six interior defensive linemen, it isn’t that wild to think Green, after an injury-shortened season, and Atkins fell just outside of the top five at their positions.
Bengals fans will be glad to know that both players didn’t fall that much farther on PFF’s list.
54. Geno Atkins
Even though Atkins earned the lowest overall grade (83.5) and pass-rush grade (85.1) we’ve seen from the big man in four years, the Cincinnati standout still finished 2018 ranked 16th in overall grade (83.5) and sixth in pass-rush grade (85.1) among qualifiers. He also finished the year ranked fifth in pass-rush win percentage (16.2%) among the 48 at his position with at least 300 pass-rush snaps in 2018. For as long as Atkins is earning top-10 marks as a pass-rusher, he’ll be in consideration for the PFF50. And though he enters 2019 at 31 years old, it’s highly unlikely he dips outside the top 10 after earning 85.0-plus pass-rush grades in four consecutive seasons.
58. A.J. Green
Before injury cut his season short, Green earned an impressive 84.9 receiving grade across 313 routes run. He’s now earned an 80.0-plus receiving grade in every season after his rookie campaign in 2011. Entering the 2019 season at 31 years old, Green will find it harder to have the success he had in years prior, but he’s still a premier receiving talent with all of the tools necessary to turn in elite production in 2019 and the years following.
Obviously, this list is based on numbers that have been put up recently. Green’s injuries have gotten in the way of him putting up the elite numbers we are used to seeing from him. The questions for Green heading into 2019 are whether he can stay healthy and how much will Zac Taylor’s new offense help elevate his game to the next level.
In Atkins’ case, last year was a season where offensive lines could focus on him a little more than in 2017. With injuries to Carl Lawson and Ryan Glasgow taking away a premiere pass-rusher and a valuable rotational player, it’s no wonder that Atkins didn’t reach the heights we are used to seeing. Not to say his 2018 season was bad, but he was ranked more appropriately than not.
Both of these guys are over 30-years-old, and fans may have to come to terms with the fact that while these guys are still top-level players, the rest of the league is catching up at their positions. Honestly, fans should be excited that in the coming seasons, players like Lawson, William Jackson, Jessie Bates III and Joe Mixon could be in the running for such distinctions.