Geno Atkins: DPOY Candidate

Khaled Elsayed breaks down why he thinks Geno Atkins should be in the talk for Defensive Player of the Year.

| 5 years ago

Geno Atkins: DPOY Candidate

Is it J.J. Watt or is it Von Miller?

That’s what it boils down to when you look at defensive player of the year. They are having what can only be described as seasons for the ages, and are the only two that deserve to be in conversation right now, right? There’s nobody else?

Well, I beg to differ. You see there’s one guy who is playing at just as high a level as they are, only it’s not the guy you think I’m talking about. It’s Geno Atkins.

Playing In Cincinnati

When you read national media about a particular team, trends develop. The same names tend to always be mentioned. When I read about Cincinnati I hear about how Andy Dalton is overrated or underrated depending on how he played that week, how (understandably) excellent A.J. Green is, and about the redemption that is Vontaze Burflict. Heck, I even hear about the ramifications of the trade of Carson Palmer.

However, one thing I don’t hear is that Geno Atkins is the best defensive tackle in football. I hear that he’s very good and a Pro Bowl candidate, but to be honest, that’s an insult to the man at this stage.

He’s not just the best player at his position in the league, he’s a genuine contender for Defensive Player of the Year and everyone out there needs to wake up and start taking notice.

What Makes Him A Candidate

We first started grading every player on every play back in 2008. Since then I’ve seen a lot of very good seasons and quite a few great ones. But I haven’t seen anything like this from a defensive tackle. Atkins already has a grade of +49.1, putting the previous best grade of Kyle Williams in 2010 (+44.2) to shame. He’s done that by making play after play in every phase of the game, with this being one instance where the stats do not lie. I mean take a look at the following accomplishments:

– With 51 quarterback disruptions, he has more combined sacks, hits, and hurries through 12 games than any DT has managed in a season since we started grading.

– He leads all defensive tackles with 21 defensive stops in the run game.

– He has the highest Pass Rushing Productivity score of all defensive tackles. His score is bettered by only five defenders in the league, and J.J. Watt isn’t one of them.

Words can’t do justice to how much of an achievement that last one is. Defensive tackles aren’t meant to create that much pressure, and defensive ends would kill for those numbers. His consistency (he’s graded positively in every game this year) is off the charts.

His Challengers

It’s a thankless task trying to compare a 4-3 outside linebacker to a 4-3 defensive tackle. By the nature of the positions they play they’ll find themselves in different matchups with more things expected of them. It’s why pitching a defensive tackles stats against a defensive ends or outside linebacker is always going to end badly for the DT, unless they have a whole lot of hype behind them (see the rookie year of Ndamukong Suh). Only Atkins bucks that trend.

I know a lot of people will think that with Aldon Smith picking up so many sacks (even if five were a combination of being unblocked or cleaning up a flushed quarterback) that he’s a slam-dunk pick. Now take this into consideration: Atkins has generated pressure on 15.4 percent of defensive snaps, while Smith is at 14.7 percent (with his performance yesterday yet to be counted). Smith’s number is impressive, but for Atkins to better that?

That’s why when the PFF team puts forward their list of candidates for our Defensive Player of the Year, Atkins will be on top of mine. It’s not a tip of my hat to an underappreciated, underdog, it’s an acknowledgment that Watt, Miller, and Smith aren’t the only ones having seasons for the ages.


Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled


  • Basballguy

    People will recognize his name after he signs with another team when his contract expires after next season.

    • Neon

      I think Mike Brown learned his lesson after losing Johnathan Joseph. Hopefully that means an upcoming extension.

  • chrisfrog

    if Aldon Smith breaks the sack record, he wins it. Period.

    • Sppash101

      That stupid to base everything off sacks, impact plays aldon smith is no where near where Atkins, Watt, and Miller have.

    • eraulli

      Just like Miggy Cabrera winning the MVP… Probably true, but disappointing.

  • JJ

    Everything Suh was supposed to be.

  • BengalsGuy18FYI

    He’s a beast. He gets help by playing on a line filled with other productive cogs. Allows him to dominate from the DT position. As a Bengals fan, watching the D-Line perform is a weekly pleasure.

  • Lance Lansing

    I have been watching football a long time and what Atkins is doing is once in a lifetime type talent. On top of the ridiculous # of QB disruptions and sack totals at this point – he is in the backfield so often that you just can’t even believe it. If you watch him on video, its just absolutely mind-boggling. Have you ever seen someone who plays on the inside seem so unblockable? I haven’t.

  • Cranch

    Mike Brown learned his lesson with JJ? Oh, you mean like he did with Justin Smith, and Ahmad Brooks, and … ad nauseum? Oh, pulleeze. I hate to say it, but Geno will be gone. Why? Because they will go after a chepaer “body” in the draft. Mike lives for the draft.

    • Jason Wheeler

      Ahmad Brooks wasn’t that good here.  He was playing out of position as a 4-3 MLB.  Justin Smith was solid here but rarely great.  And Mike has extended several guys who did earn it, plus they are loaded with cap room and have a salary floor to meet.