Geno Atkins flying under the radar as DPOY candidate


Geno Atkins has easily been a top 10 defender or better in 2015, but his name is rarely mentioned in Defensive Player of the Year discussions.

Explosive. Disruptive. Game-wrecker.

Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals is all of these things and more.

The defensive tackle has played at an All Pro level in 2015. He’s recorded impressive stats, elevated the play of his teammates and helped the Cincinnati Bengals become one of the NFL’s premiere teams.

Atkins has recorded 35 tackles (24 solo), eight sacks and a forced fumble. The defensive tackle’s eight sacks rank third in the NFL among players at his position and 12th among all players, period. But Atkins’ impact reaches far beyond what shows up on the box score.

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According to

Sporting Charts

, Atkins has recorded 35 quarterback hurries, which ranks second in the NFL behind Justin Houston’s 35. However, Atkins could have a chance to pass Houston as the league’s most disruptive defender, as the Chiefs outside linebacker is

dealing with a hyperextended knee


Pro Football Focus has Atkins ranked as its second-best defensive tackle, and for good reason. Atkins is one of the NFL’s best interior players. He can make plays against both the pass and the rush, and he opens things up for his teammates. Teammates like fellow linemen Carlos Dunlap and Domata Peko have already set career highs in sacks (10.5 and four apiece), and safety Reggie Nelson leads the league with a career-high eight interceptions.

It’s no surprise that Atkins’ surge and the Bengals’ impressive 2015 season coincide with each other. The defensive tackle is the centerpiece of Cincinnati’s defense, and his ability to disrupt opposing game plans is what has helped the Bengals develop such a tenacious defense.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has noticed. After calling out Atkins during the offseason, Guenther now praises his unit’s best player.

"“He should. He does deserve to be in [the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year]. You ask anybody on their offense, any offense that we play the first guy when they turn the tape on Monday morning and they look at the tape they say ‘oh shoot we better have a plan for this guy.'”"

Atkins’ dominance is clearly evident among Bengals fans. Despite Atkins’ aversion of the media and reserved personality, people love him. Fans are starting to understand his importance to the team and impact on the field, despite his production coming from production that doesn’t directly show up in the box score.

When we polled Stripe Hype followers, asking for the Bengals’ MVP in the second Browns game, we chose not to include Atkins–partially because the box score showed just two tackles and zero sacks, and partially because he’s the Bengals’ MVP on a weekly basis. After all, Atkins is the Bengals’ most valuable player.

Regardless, several fans chimed in, telling us that Geno was the Bengals’ MVP of the week.

That tells us something: Bengals fans are beginning to understand that a players’ value isn’t directly correlated to numbers. It’s correlated to production.

J.J. Watt is a freak athlete, and he generates more sacks than almost any defender in the league. But he moves around the line, lining up wherever he feels he can make the biggest impact (i.e. identifying the weakest offensive linemen on an opposing team and going one-on-one with him).

Aaron Donald is a beast, and many already believe him to be a better version of Atkins. It’s too early to tell, but it’s also worth noting that Donald plays alongside Robert Quinn and Chris Long, who have tallied over 100 combined sacks in 13 seasons.

Geno Atkins may have Carlos Dunlap (who is a talented, underrated teammate), but he’s a one-man wrecking crew for the Bengals. He’s logged 40 career sacks and anchors one of the best defensive lines in football. There’s plenty of reason to think that in terms of overall value, Atkins has a great case to make as the most valuable defensive player in the NFL.

Next: A.J. McCarron: The Next Tom Brady?

For more on Atkins’ dominance, be sure to check out Paul Dehner’s fantastic piece on Atkins, titled “Geno Atkins: Defining the value of disruption.” He goes into more depth and talks with some of football’s brightest minds in trying to find a tangible way to describe Atkins’ on-field impact.