The Cincinnati Bengals had a rough go of things in the 2016 season, but they can hang their hat on the fact that ESPN AFC North reporters believe they employ the most valuable defensive player in the division.
Jamison Hensley, Katherine Terrell, Jeremy Fowler and Pat Mcmanamon gave the honor to the stalwart defensive tackle with the consensus pretty much being that the division currently lacks a lot of star power on that side of the ball. Atkins stands out as one of the few that still possesses it, and his nine sacks from the interior speak to just how great of a player he is.
Bengals tackle Geno Atkins wins AFC North defensive MVP https://t.co/EHZiMFinwb— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) January 19, 2017
While there isn't any disputing that Atkins is among the three best defenders in the division, it does seem a bit strange to give the most valuable player award to a defensive lineman on a losing team. I personally believe that this type of honor should go to a player on a more relevant squad, and while I would love for Eric Weddle or C.J. Mosley to take it home, I’ll remove my purple tinted glasses for a minute and discuss another player I'd like to make a case for.
That player is Ryan Shazier. He led the way on defense for the division champion Pittsburgh Steelers, racking up 87 tackles, three and a half sacks, as well as three interceptions, and has had a pretty monster playoff performance up to this point.
While it's good to see a quality player like Atkins get his due, I was a bit surprised to see that a player who leads a defense that will be competing for the conference left out of the conversation.
Let me know if you agree, disagree, or have another pick entirely in the comments below.