For the Cincinnati Bengals, there have been very few reasons to celebrate this season. As a team, the franchise is on course for a losing season, but much more painfully, a losing season in a year that promised so much more on the onset. Even though the team isn’t where it wants to be, two of the individuals on the roster are continuing to establish themselves as league wide stars with potentially record breaking performances.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins and wide receiver AJ Green are both on course to break franchise records entering Week 10’s game with the New York Giants. Green is fourth in the AFC with 735 receiving yards. He is on pace to finish the year with 1,470 yards in 16 games, which would be 30 more than the high set by Chad Johnson.
Consistency can be difficult for receivers in the NFL, more so than at any other position. As the team’s number one receiver, Green not only has to rely on Andy Dalton‘s performances, but he most also deal with defenses shifting their coverage towards him. The Bengals don’t have another receiver to prevent teams from zoning in on Green and even though it hasn’t stopped him to this point, he faces some very tough matchups moving forward.
The Giants this weekend may not have a defensive back capable of matching up to Green one-on-one, but they do have an all-around defense that should be able to manhandle the Bengals’ offense. The Kansas City Chiefs the following week don’t have a good defense, but Brandon Flowers is one of the best press cover cornerbacks in the NFL. A two game stretch against the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers will offer Green opportunities to put up big numbers, but that is offset by two games against the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. In the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles, Green could see excellent coverage, or he could see awful coverage as both team’s secondaries have been inconsistent this year.
Green needs to average 88.25 receiving yards per game to eclipse Johnson’s franchise record. While he has a difficult road ahead, it would take a brave man to bet against him managing that feat.
Nobody is surprised that Green, a lanky receiver with all the physical tools, is a potential record breaker, but interior defensive linemen(whether it be in a 3-4 or 4-3) don’t tend to get enough statistical recognition to hold any sort of records. Atkins is the exception of the rule. Eddie Edwards, a defensive end, currently holds the franchise record for sacks, dating back to 1983. Edwards managed to get to the quarterback 13 times then, but Atkins is on pace for 14 this year.
Atkins has seven sacks in eight games, but more importantly he has had at least one sack in five of those games. Twice he was held out by Alex Mack of the Cleveland Browns, who is arguably the best center in football. While Peyton Manning‘s quick release and intelligence cost him any opportunities against the Denver Broncos. Atkins should have plenty of opportunities to get more sacks moving forward, each of the Giants, Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, Cowboys, Eagles and Ravens all have questionable interiors to their offensive lines right now. At this point it would be a surprise if Atkins didn’t break the record.
In a season that has resulted in so much disappointment for fans, two of the Bengals’ young pillars of success have done plenty to remind them that the future is most certainly brighter than the present. Atkins and Green are still only 24 years of age. If they don’t break the records this year, they likely will in the future.
Cian Fahey writes for RantSports, Irishcentral, The Guardian, Balls.ie and FootballGuys. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf