On a ship that is helplessly sinking week after week, the Cincinnati Bengals’ calls for a life vest may be answered in one man. The team’s interior lineman, Geno Atkins, has progressively become a force to be reckoned with on the defense. Not only is he a threat to the opposing team’s quarterback week after week, the third year defensive tackle is also a threat to a team record that has stood the test of time for 29 years.
Atkins came to the Bengals in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of Georgia. His stellar career didn’t start in college, though. Geno Atkins has always been a powerhouse. While attending prep school at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Geno helped his school be the Class AAAAA runner-ups in both 2004 and 2005. In his junior year, the DT recorded 70 tackles, one interception, and four fumble recoveries. The following season, his final one at Thomas Aquinas in 2005, Atkins had 117 tackles, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries on his way to being named the First-team All-County by the Sun-Sentinal and Miami Herald. He was also named First –team Class AAAAA in the state of Florida and was the Florida Class AAAAA Defensive player of the year.
As the 24th ranked best defensive end in the nation, Atkins was recruited to Georgia where he began his career as a true freshman. That season, he recorded nine tackles and 0.5 sacks in 11 games. In 2007, he was able to see significant playing time as a backup. He appeared in 13 games, started seven, and racked up 41 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Despite starting the season as a backup, early in his sophomore year Atkins found himself ranked fourth in the SEC. He then won the starting job and later received recognition as the SEC defensive player of the week. At the end of the season, Atkins was also named to the First-team All-SEC.
After aiding his team to a Sugar Bowl win by delivering a game-ending sack to Hawaii’s quarterback Colt Brennan, Atkins started his junior season on fire. In the first two games of the season, Geno had already managed eight tackles and nine quarterback hurries. In his senior season in 2009, Atkins helped his team return to a bowl where he recorded a sack against the Michigan State Spartans in Georgia’s Capital One Bowl victory.
The defensive tackle was drafted 120th overall to a 2010 Bengals squad and was able to jump right into action with team. In his first NFL season, Atkins appeared in 16 games, starting one. He recorded 16 tackles and 3 sacks as a rookie. In his second season, Geno started all but one of his 16 appearances for the Bengals and earned a trip to the 2011 Pro Bowl after delivering 47 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles that he also recovered.
Already in his third season, that has only seen eight games; the Bengals interior lineman has recorded 27 tackles and seven sacks. He is on pace to record 14 sacks for the team. This would break the single season record for the most sacks by a Bengals player that was set by Eddie Edwards in 1983.
In a season that his seeming like all hope is lost for Bengals fans, Geno Atkins offers a bright spot and encouragement as Cincinnati looks to the future. With the team experiencing issues on both sides of the ball and finding themselves flailing at the midpoint to the season, Atkins may the key the team needs to be victorious in the upcoming matchups this season.
Looking ahead to Sunday, The New York Giants are coming to town and their quarterback Eli Manning has already been sacked eight times for a loss of 53 yards. While under pressure, the younger Manning is only completing 55.3 percent of his passes. The Giants quarterback has also been noticeably less accurate over the past month. With Atkins’ play on the field this season, the Bengals have the opportunity to upset the Super Bowl Champions on Sunday. If Atkins can lead the charge in getting pressure on Manning, he could be the motivational “life vest” the drowning Bengals need to finish the season.