When Geno Attacks: Week 1

Geno Atkins is not a real human being. Well, sure in the biological sense of the word he is. But as last year proved, he has morphed from a really good defensive lineman into a fearsome force of nature only to be tempered by Zeus himself. (Or Mike Zimmer.) He scoffs at feeble attempts to block him with one man the way Aaron Maybin scoffs at water-color paints and crayons. Childs play. (Also, take the over on Aaron Maybin painting jokes from the blog staff this year.)

Last year, we introduced you to When Geno Attacks, a weekly look at the defensive tackle’s dismissal of would-be blockers and punishment of the unsuspecting quarterbacks and running backs that meet their impending doom at his massive hands.

But first, a quick recap of Geno’s eventful summer.

-He benched all the weights.
-He doggy-paddled fools like a bawse.
-He came into a small fortune of $55 million.

So one would assume he would be adequately prepared for a glorious encore to last year’s performance. And he was, showing the same rare blend of speed, power and athleticism that has made him so difficult to contain against the Bears in week one. But the Bears came prepared too.

Chicago, wisely, ran precious few plays towards Geno and nearly always kept an extra blocker available to help out against him. New Bears coach Marc Trestman developed a game plan that emphasized quick passes from quarterback Jay Cutler. He also gave the cig-smokin’ gunslinger extra protection, regularly keeping a tight end or running back to help. Now I am not one to question the defensive strategy of a coordinator that orchestrated one of the top defenses in the leagues last year (namely for fear of getting cursed out and/or mounted on his wall), but it was curious to me why the Bengals didn’t bring more pressure. Zimmer does not run a blitz-heavy scheme, but I thought a few well-placed blitzes could have helped to disrupt the cohesiveness of Chicago’s offensive line.

Why do I bring this up? Because upon gazing at the box score, I was flabbergasted to see Geno’s name absent save for one measly QB hit. Could it be? Has humanity befallen an immortal?

Well, no. Not at all. I did not watch the game live, but I caught up on NFL’s Game Rewind and found more than a few plays that stood out. Geno is fine kids. Here’s the proof:

In the history of the world, this play never happened. That’s because it was negated by a holding penalty against the Bears. But regardless, its’a great example of Geno’s ability to effortlessly shed blocks and return to a position to make a play.

Here, he’s matched up against rookie right guard Kyle Long. Geno does not treat rookies kindly.

Now I’m not sure if this play is designed to follow his lead blocker to the left or cut back to the right side. But regardless, his options quickly become limited once Geno (immediately double-teamed), and friends begin scraping down the line. And ready to greet the Bears fullback is new Bengal James Harrison. If Forte had planned on his blocker creating a hole, there needed to be a revised plan immediately.

Here, Forte decided to cut back to the right, and it seems like a logical idea. There looks to be a little crease, especially since right tackle Jordan Mills (another rookie) has moved on from the Atkins double team to block Vontaze Burfict. Atkins, ever the savvy one, notices this and moves to plug the hole by ridding himself of the rookie pest.

BE GONE, LONG. Atkins tosses Long aside, leaving him free to go after Forte. I don’t doubt that there are a few defensive tackles that could toss a rookie guard aside. (Though, to throw Long a bone, he actually played pretty well, all things considered.) What is so impressive is how Atkins is able to both shed the blocker and find himself in a balanced position, ready to attack the football. It’s a remarkable display of agility, one that Forte is soon to be saddened by.

Thanks for playing, Matt.

Despite only registering one QB hit according to ESPN’s box score, Geno still graded out as one of Pro Football Focus’s best defensive tackles in week one. In addition to the one QB Hit, Atkins pressured Cutler three times, including on the play that led to the Burfict’s interception.

Here, Long is matched up against Atkins again. And again, Atkins tosses him to the ground.

Poor Kyle Long is watching in dismay as his quarterback is pressured into throwing an pick. With Long out of the way, Atkins has an unabated path to the quarterback. (Shoutout to Michael Johnson too, who also earned a QB hurry on this play rushing from the right side.)

This play shows the value of getting pressure. Johnson is rushing from the edge, which would typically mean that Cutler should step up into the pocket. Alas, Geno would be there waiting to consume him entirely, so Cutler is forced to either take a sack or fling the ball and hope for the best. He chose option B. Bad idea.

Don’t expect this box score disappearing act to continue though. The Bengals host Pittsburgh on Monday night and the Steelers are without All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey and had a very difficult time protecting Ben Roethlisberger last week. The setting could be ripe for a slew of Geno attacks.

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