Since entering the league, Geno Atkins has established himself as one of the NFL’s top interior pass rushers.
Despite the defense’s struggles over the past few seasons, Atkins has been an absolute force. Some point to his sack numbers and say he had a bad 2019 season, but the tape tells a different story. At times he looked like he was stopping the run all by himself.
Atkins is still one of the best defenders in the league and will return to national prominence with improved team performance in 2020.
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Experience: 10 years
Per Spotrac, Atkins’ cap hit will be $14.2 million this season. His dead money dropped severely following last season and is currently $7.8 million. This gives the team a potential out on the three years remaining on his contract. Although, it is highly unlikely they would take it.
Atkins isn’t set to become a free agent until after the 2022 season, which means we she see him in Cincinnati for a long time.
Atkins was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He became a regular starter at defensive tackle in his second season, collecting 7.5 sacks that year.
The following season he had what is still a career high with 12.5 sacks. Over the course of his career he has had nine or more sacks four more times.
His 75.5 career sacks currently trails only teammate Carlos Dunlap’s 81.5 for the Bengals’ all-time record. This is particularly impressive since Atkins plays on the interior of the defensive line.
Atkins was also recently named to the NFL All-Decade Team, which is the frosting on top of a Hall-of-Fame resume.
Although his sack numbers dropped in 2019, Atkins still played very well and at times was a one-man wrecking crew as a run-defender.
Want to see peak Geno Atkins from field level? This is @danwood2's shot from the sideline in Buffalo. Atkins literally lifts a 329 pound man off his feet and drives him into the quarterback. #Bengals pic.twitter.com/8n2ynRflPX— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) August 27, 2018
Outlook for 2020
Atkins is a leader on this defense and has continued to play at a high level despite poor overall defensive play in the past few seasons.
In the second year of defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s defense, and with the addition of several new players on all-three levels of the defense, the unit should see marked improvement overall. This will allow Atkins to focus on his role within the defense.
Specifically, the addition of D.J. Reader will help Atkins in two ways.
First, it is nearly impossible to double-team two defensive tackles.
Second, Atkins played over 76% of the team’s defensive snaps last season, which the coaching staff felt was too much. Having Reader on the field will allow them to get Atkins off the field more often, keeping him fresh. As a result, Atkins will continue to play at a high level and should see an increase in his sack numbers.
Additionally, the Bengals signed one veteran linebacker in Josh Bynes and drafted three more in Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither, and Markus Bailey. They also have 2019 draft pick Germaine Pratt, who played well towards the end of last year.
Reader, Atkins, and the rest of the defensive line, along with this revamped linebacker corps, will help the Bengals play better against the run and as a result, there will be more pass-rush opportunities.
The change at quarterback with rookie Joe Burrow under center will also lead to more scoring on offense. Which means that opposing offenses will be protecting a lead less often, once again creating more pass rush opportunities. This will allow Atkins to shine as he is able to pin his ears back in more obvious passing situations.
Atkins’ contract does create an opportunity for the team to release him, but that would not make any sense. He is still one of the best players on not only the defense but the team.
He will make the team this year and will be a big part of the defensive turnaround.
Roster Odds: 99%