As expected, Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins was named by his peers to the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016. More surprisingly, it was his first time being named to the list.
Atkins joins his Bengals teammates Carlos Dunlap, Andrew Whitworth, Tyler Eifert and Andy Dalton who all have also been named to the list so far. Former Bengal and current Raiders safety Reggie Nelson also made the list, marking six players from the 2015 team on this list so far.
Atkins came in at 29th overall on this week’s episode of the NFL Network series, which ranked the players who came in at numbers 30-21 on Wednesday night.
Atkins ranked after Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who led off the show at 30th overall. Dalton was ranked on last week’s episode as the 35th ranked player.
“He’s a silent assassin,” Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap said of Atkins on the show. “He’s not gonna say much. He’s just gonna go out there make dominating plays.”
In 2015, Atkins started in all 16 games while notching 11 sacks, which was the second highest single-season total in his career. He also had 42 total tackles and a forced fumble while being a big reason why the Bengals ranked second in scoring defense and fifth in opponent passer rating (78.9).
“He’s gonna push you backwards, and eventually, you’re gonna going back towards the quarterback. It’s just a matter of how long it takes,” said Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth of his teammate.
Perhaps the biggest indicator of Atkins’ improved play was the number of sacks his fellow defenders had. In 2014, Domata Peko, Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry combined for 10.5 sacks. In 2015, that number jumped to 20.5 as teams were forced to double-team (and sometimes triple-team) Atkins far more often, making it easier for the rest of the line to get the sack.
“He’s got an excellent bull rush. His power is probably unmatched by anyone in the NFL,” said Browns tackle Joe Thomas.
The Bengals also went from being dead last in the NFL with just 20 sacks in 2014 to having the ninth-most in 2015 with 42. All of this helped Atkins earn All-Pro honors and a spot in the 2016 Pro Bowl. It’s also helped keep the future of this Bengals franchise very bright for the foreseeable future.
Atkins is just 27-years-old and signed through the 2018 season. As long as he’s healthy, there’s no reason to doubt he’ll keep playing at a high level, which means the Bengals’ defense should continue to be a dominant force.
Wide receiver A.J. Green is likely the only other Bengals player who will eventually be named to the Top 100 list. Next week, the show will reveal the players ranked 11-20 and the following Wednesday, June 6, the top 10 will be announced.