The Cincinnati Bengals have already dealt with a lot of ups and downs already this year. Injuries have decimated the starting lineup, especially the offensive line and secondary. The running game has averaged a pedestrian 3.2 yards per carry with both starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and 2nd stringer Bernard Scott sidelined with injuries. The defense looked somewhat improved, that is, until last week against the Green Bay Packers. There has been one consistent bright spot for the Bengals and that’s been in the form of 6’1, 300 lb and 6’3, 320 lb defensive tackles.
Geno Atkins and Domatao Peko have been the rock for the Bengals defensive unit so far. Starting defensive end Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers haven’t spent much time in pads this offseason as they try to get healthy before the regular season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. In their absence Atkins and Peko have shined.
Last year the dynamic defensive tackle duo combined for 113 tackles, 10 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries in 16 games. Not bad for a pair that only commands $5.23 million combined in 2012 according to http://www.spotrac.com. That’s half of Baltimore Ravens DT Haloti Ngata ($10.4 million) and only $260,000 less than Pittsburgh Steelers DT Casey Hampton ($4.96 million) who are both nose tackles in a 3-4 defense that only features one defensive tackle. Other teams that run a 4-3 scheme, like the Bengals, that field two DTs at the same time are the Detroit Lions who are shelling out $12.06 million between DTs Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh. That cap hit jumps to $14.30 million if you include DT Nick Fairley‘s $2.24 million. Not a bad bargain for the Bengals.
Watching the first three preseason games for Cincinnati you can see that the team is putting this money to good use. Atkins and Peko were especially dominant in their first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. The fierce pair of battering rams kept the Falcons offensive motor from churning past the first down marker on numerous occasions. They were in the backfield all night disrupting plays behind the line of scrimmage, dragging down running backs and pressuring Atlanta QB Matt Ryan.