By: Cian Fahey
Geno Atkins has recorded 2.5 sacks over the Cincinnati Bengals' past three games. Having somewhat feasted on the relatively weak offensive lines of the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, the defensive tackle has another appealing matchup this week in the Dallas Cowboys.
Each time Atkins takes down the opposing team's quarterback, he inches closer to the franchise record. 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, so Atkins needs to four sacks in the final four games to set a new mark.
Having primarily played on the left side of the defense in recent weeks, the 24-year-old is set to go against Mackenzy Bernadeau and Doug Free primarily this week. Bernadeau and Free haven't had good seasons and are coming off of a poor showing against the Philadelphia Eagles. Combined, the duo gave up two sacks, two quarterback hits and four quarterback hurries. At 6-4, 320 pounds, Bernadeau does have the right body size to match up to Atkins, but has no hope of keeping up with him from a technical point of view.
Bernadeau doesn't have the talent to stick with Atkins, but with how the Bengals' defensive line has been performing recently, the Cowboys won't be able to give the right guard help on every snap. Going by their contrasting form, double-teaming Atkins probably wouldn't prevent him from getting to the quarterback either way.
In fact, Atkins' greatest obstacle preventing him from adding to his sack total is likely the creativity and agility of Tony Romo. Romo takes a lot of sacks, but he also avoids many to create big plays down the field. He can shift in the tightest of spaces to avoid pursuing defenders.
With games left against the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens after this weekend, Atkins has every chance of cracking the franchise record. Especially if he continues in this rich vane of form. A teammate of Atkins, AJ Green, is in exactly the same situation. Green is chasing down the record of Chad Johnson and needs just 333 yards in four games. Johnson's career high was 1,440 yards.
Despite not scoring a touchdown in the past two games, after starting the season with nine touchdowns in 10 games, Green still racked up 18 receptions for 287. If he can keep up that pace for the rest of the season, against what is a more difficult schedule for a wide receiver, then Green would be the franchise leader in receptions after just his second season.
Even challenging for these records at this point in their respective careers is a phenomenal achievement in itself. Both players are just 24 while Green is in his second season and Atkins his third. They are both still on the positive side of their career arcs, so there is plenty of time to set the marks at a later date, but coming so close this season it would be a shame should they fail.