The Cincinnati Bengals need to get better at stopping the run quickly, and Geno Atkins’ return is the answer to elevating their play.
Its no secret the Cincinnati Bengals ended 2019 as one of the worst run defenses in the league. Even though they improved throughout the season, there was a clear need to address the concern in the offseason. The front office responded by giving the defense an overhaul and paying big money for some great talent. Through two games, however, the run defense is still sub-par at best.
Many thought the addition of D.J. Reader was the answer for the Bengals’ defensive woes. Reader came to Cincinnati regarded as one of the best run stoppers in football and the Bengals made him one of the highest-paid defensive tackles in the league.
Although the former Texans defensive tackle has helped in a major way, through two games, the Bengals have still given up over 150 rushing yards in both, with 155 surrendered to the Chargers and 215 allowed to the Browns.
Thankfully, the solution to Cincinnati’s issue is already on the roster and is just waiting to get healthy.
Geno Atkins can make a lot of the defensive woes disappear
Geno Atkins has been one of the most underrated and least talked about stars in the NFL for the last few years. He has been a monster on the Cincinnati defensive front and has helped elevate the unit in a number of aspects.
The addition of D.J. Reader was supposed to compliment Atkins perfectly and allow the Bengals to finally be able to stop the run. The issue right now is not with Reader. He is grading out on PFF with a 69.8, which is a very respectable score. The problem is that this unit is designed to include two dominant interior linemen and is currently only seeing one.
With only one top run stopper, offenses can double team Reader and take him out of the play. The linebackers and safeties then need to step up and create plays closer to the line of scrimmage. The back seven hasn’t been making those said plays, and have allowed running backs to have big games.
If Atkins can come back, there would be two all-pro caliber run stoppers in the trenches. This changes what offenses are able to do, and allows both players more one on one situations that they can exploit.
When Atkins is able to return there should be an immediate correlation to Cincinnati causing more negative running plays. Not to mention, the pass rush should finally get going. This could be the difference in many games and will likely ease some of the pressure off Joe Burrow to put up so many points.
Unfortunately, all the Bengals can do now is wait and hope that Atkins is ready to go against Philadelphia in week three. So far, things aren’t off to a great start, as the defensive tackle missed practice yet again on Wednesday.