Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins emerged as the scourge of the AFC North a year ago.
Uncommonly disruptive inside as a gap-shooting presence at a quick 6-foot-1, 300 pounds, Atkins tied as the NFL leader with 7 1/2 sacks as an interior defensive lineman.
Atkins, 24, is allowed to roam in the Bengals' defensive scheme, lining up all over the defensive line. He's regarded as one of the top young defensive players in the game.
Atkins earned a spot on the AFC Pro Bowl squad last year during his second NFL season, and a ton of respect from opposing offensive linemen.
"Geno is a very, very good player," Ravens Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda said. "I will give credit where credit is due. That guy is good. He plays with really good leverage. He's really strong. That's two of the things that make him a really good player, and his quickness, too. He's one of the best inside guys in the game, too."
Heading into Monday night's season opener against the Bengals, Atkins ranks extremely high on the Ravens' list of blocking priorities.
If the Ravens fail to contain him, the former fourth-round draft pick from the University of Georgia could immediately be on top of quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice.
Atkins didn't confine his success last season to the rest of the Bengals' opponents. He recorded nine tackles and one sack in two games against Baltimore.
"He is really tremendously athletic," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's really got quick feet. He is an explosive, quick, powerful guy. He is a tough guy to reach. He gets on that outside edge and gets upfield.
"Sometimes when you move, and you kind of shift their defense a little bit, he'll play over the center and play as a nose guard and do a great job. He's a pass rusher. As an inside rusher, you don't see that often, really athletic guy."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun