Bengals fighting father time: Geno Atkins
There is no doubt there is a Geno Atkins sized hole in the Bengals defense they are struggling to plug. It is a surprise to many fans that while Atkins’ injury status was relatively unknown in the build-up to Week one, it has now kept him out of a quarter of the season.
While a return seems imminent, it has become all to clear that the team is undermanned at the position. D.J. Reader has been a nice addition to the defensive line and the thought of he and a fully fit Atkins is mouth-watering.
Instead, it has been a brief cameo from Mike Daniels, and then, when he went down, a whole lot of late-addition, Christian Covington. It was a rebound week for the defense against the Jaguars, holding the opposition-run attack to 89 yards. Even so, it’s fair to say they face a sterner task with the Browns and Steelers on the horizon.
Atkins’ game has shown little sign of taking a backward step in recent years. However, his absence has shone a light brightly on the lack of depth behind him. The modern NFL places great emphasis on inside pressure forcing QB’s off their spot. Something the Bengals aren’t doing as much without their stud defensive tackle.
While Cincinnati has made provision for eventually moving forward without A.J. Green and Carlos Dunlap, the defensive interior has seen more of a band-aid approach. Whereas fans saw the Daniels’ signing as adding to the rotation, it now seems clear the front office knew the spot needed reinforcement.
The Bengals will of course have pressing needs come April, particularly on their offensive line. The defensive tackle position should also be near the top of the to-do list. Having invested heavily in Reader, it is assumed that any addition is more likely to come through the draft than free agency.
Atkins may return and normal service will hopefully resume. Despite that, the Bengals must learn from the past four games and ensure that Atkins’ eventual replacement is discovered sooner rather than later because that player is currently not on the roster.