Among the responsibilities on his rapidly filling plate, Ravens center Matt Skura’s top priority is limiting the havoc Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins can wreak when their teams tangle Thursday night in Cincinnati.
Although this is his first season as the starting center, Skura lined up as the starting right guard in last year’s finale between the AFC North rivals and played a role in containing the six-time Pro Bowl selection to two tackles and zero sacks. Skura, 25, is banking on that past experience.
“It definitely does help, but you still always have to be ready,” he said. “He has some new rush moves, and I know he’s been working hard all offseason for this season. It’s definitely good that I’ve gotten a taste of what he likes to do and who he as a player, and hopefully that helps me out and helps all of us out.”
Atkins, 30, is off to a fast start. In Sunday’s season-opening 34-23 victory at the Indianapolis Colts, he finished with four tackles, one sack and three quarterback hits. In 14 meetings with the Ravens, Atkins has at least a half-sack in eight games.
Atkins, one of the NFL’s top defensive tackles who has led or finished in a tie for first in the league in sacks among interior defensive linemen for three straight years, was rewarded by Cincinnati last month with a four-year, $65.2 million contract that will keep him with the organization through 2022.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis compared the 6-foot-1, 300-pound Atkins favorably with a certain Hall of Fame defensive tackle who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I think Warren Sapp was just a little bigger man, but similar to Geno in Geno’s quickness and so forth,” Lewis said Tuesday, complimenting Atkins’ quickness and strength. “Warren was probably just a little bigger man, but Geno with his size and what he gets done is tremendous, and he’s a fine player in the run game as well.”
Skura said Atkins reminds him of Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who is 6-1 and 310 pounds.
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“They’re both shorter-stature guys, but extremely strong, powerful, quick, with really good inside moves,” Skura said. “And they’re also very smart. They’ve been in the game for a really long time, and they understand offenses and understand offensive line play as well. They definitely keep you on your toes.”