Cincinnati Bengals: Geno Atkins Solidifies Hall of Fame Career
By Kyle Smith
From fourth-round pick to the 2010s All-Decade team, Geno Atkins has quietly solidified a Hall of Fame career.
The year is 2010. The Cincinnati Bengals were coming off of a 10-6 record and a clean sweep of the AFC North. Heading into the offseason, the Bengals were looking to solidify their defensive line and they certainly succeeded. In the second round, Cincinnati drafted current fan favorite Carlos Dunlap. They weren’t done as they drafted one of the biggest diamonds in the rough in the fourth round when they selected Geno Atkins with the 120th overall pick.
Coming off of 22 tackles and three sacks during his senior year at Georgia, Atkins was undervalued due to his small stature. At the NFL combine, Atkins stood at 6’1″ tall, 293 pounds, considerably smaller than the prototypical NFL defensive tackle. The Bengals saw his upside as an interior pass rusher and the investment paid massive dividends.
In his first season in the stripes, Atkins recorded 16 total tackles, three sacks, and fourteen quarterback hits. His second season is where he hit his stride. Atkins finished that season with 47 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries, one of which went for a touchdown. Atkins was selected to his first Pro Bowl in only his second season in the NFL.
Over the next eight seasons, Bengals’ fans would see much of the same. Over his ten year career, Atkins has been responsible for 383 total tackles, 227 solo tackles, 75.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Ten seasons into his illustrious career and Atkins has been selected to eight pro bowls and has been honored as a First-Team All-Pro twice.
Yesterday, Geno Atkins was announced as part of the 2010s All-Decade Team. Currently, the Cincinnati Bengals have only one Hall of Famer, offensive tackle Anthony Munoz. With his newest honor, Atkins bolsters his Hall of Fame resume.
So how does Geno Atkins’s career stack up against other recent Hall of Fame defensive tackles?
Sapp was known for his big personality but played similarly to Atkins in that he was a pass-rushing defensive tackle. In 13 seasons in the NFL, Sapp sacked a quarterback 96.5 times, second-most all-time of all defensive tackles. Sapp did record 578 total and 440 solo tackles in his career as well. To pair with the Super Bowl XXXVII win, he was an all-pro four straight seasons from 1999-2002 and was named to seven pro bowls during his career. Finally, Sapp was selected to the 1990s and 2000s all-decade team to solidify his resume. If Atkins can play a few more seasons and produces as Bengals’ fans have grown accustomed to, he can begin to compare to Sapp’s stats and productivity. Sapp was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.
Randle was one of the meanest guys on the field and one of the most dominant pass rushers in the game. In 14 seasons, Randle racked up 137.5 sacks, but only 277 solo tackles. Randle played in two NFC championship games and lost both. He was named an All-Pro six times and participated in the Pro Bowl seven times. Randle was also named to the 1990s All-Decade team. Randle was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010 after retiring in 2003.
Kennedy is probably the closest comparison for “recent” defensive tackles for Geno Atkins. In 11 seasons, Kennedy recorded 279 total tackles and 58 sacks. He was selected to eight pro bowls, the same number as Geno Atkins. However, he was named an All-Pro five times compared to Atkins’s two. Kennedy was selected to the 1990s All-Decade team to round out his career. Much like Atkins, Kennedy did not participate in a single championship game, neither conference nor Super Bowl. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
What does this mean for Geno?
If you find the common denominator in the three selections above, each was named to an All-Decade team. While Geno may not be able to compete with Warren Sapp’s or John Randle’s sack total, he can rival their tackles statistics and productivity. Using Cortez Kennedy as an example, Atkins has a chance to blow those stats out of the water.
Defensive tackles also play a massive role in disrupting pockets and closing holes on the line of scrimmage. Those plays may not show up on the stat line, but Atkins has contributed countless times to plays that he won’t be praised for. Watch any Bengals’ film from the past ten seasons and Atkins will show his dominance.
Cincinnati Bengals’ fans have had the privilege of watching Geno Atkins play in the orange and black for the past 10 seasons. With only a few seasons left in the tank, Atkins has the opportunity to solidify his dominance. Bengals’ fans have always known of Atkins’s talent on the field, but it is time to recognize his legacy as a potential Hall of Fame player.