However, Atkins has looked much improved in OTAs, at least according to Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes.
“Scary,” Hayes said, via the Bengals' official team site. “It’s scary how fast and explosive he is right now. I think he has the confidence that he has his legs under him. He feels like he did.”
In 2012, Atkins recorded a career-best 12 1/2 sacks. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther believes Atkins could be on his way back to that level.
"He looks as good as any guy we’ve got on our team. On the defensive side at least,” Guenther said. “He’s real explosive. He looks strong. He looks as good as he’s ever had. I’m proud of the way he’s come back. He gives us a huge boost. Huge. You’re talking about one of the elite players in the league.”
Atkins totaled 34 tackles (20 solo) and three sacks in 16 games in 2014.
“We need to get him back to where he was when he was one of the best three techniques in the game,” Guenther told the team's website. “This year he was just three technique No. 20. He was just a guy out there. We need to get him back where he was a game wrecker inside.”
Atkins, 26, is signed through 2018 and is set to make $5.7 million next season. He had 26.5 sacks from the start of the 2011 season until tearing his ACL in Week 9 of the 2013 season.
Atkins left the game with the knee issue, but has started every game this season.
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