Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins doesn't say much, instead allowing his play to do the talking.
The way Atkins is punishing opponents this season, he is telling everyone that he wants to be in contention for defensive player of the year honors. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who said Atkins was “just a guy out there” last season, is now receiving Atkins' message loud and clear.
“Ask anybody on the offenses we play and he’s the first guy they look at,” Guenther said via Bengals.com. “They say, ‘We better have a plan for this guy.’ And he’s done nothing not to be in the conversation.”
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Atkins was dominant in Sunday's 31-7 win over the Bengals, notching his league-best eighth sack among defensive tackles. But Guenther pointed to Atkins' prowess against the run, helping to limit Rams star rookie Todd Gurley to just 19 yards on 9 carries without having to use eight men in the box.
“We went with a light box. Seven. And the guys did a great job in it,” Guenther said. “You don’t have to use eight-man fronts; you don’t have to use a lot of blitzes. He frees up guys when he gets doubled … He’s a force against the pass and a force against the run.”
After a subpar 2014 campaign coming off a torn ACL, Atkins is bringing new meaning to going quietly about his business. Head coach Marvin Lewis called Atkins “the quietest defensive player” he's ever been around, but when he does talk, his teammates listen.
“They do, every time Geno talks,” Lewis said. “I think because he’s not an outwardly loud person, it’s like that. His knowledge of the game and knowledge of what needs to get done is incredible.”
“Geno is not saying anything to anybody,” safety Reggie Nelson said. “Geno is walking back to the huddle and lining up and ready to do it again. He won’t even smile at you. Good luck.”