Seattle Seahawks

Bengals defensive linemen Atkins, Dunlap have been bearish on opposing backfields

Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap, right, and Geno Atkins, behind, sack Kansas City’s Alex Smith last weekend. Dunlap and Atkins, who have combined for 6 1/2 sacks this season, will pursue Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson during Sunday’s game at Cincinnati.
Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap, right, and Geno Atkins, behind, sack Kansas City’s Alex Smith last weekend. Dunlap and Atkins, who have combined for 6 1/2 sacks this season, will pursue Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson during Sunday’s game at Cincinnati. The Associated Press

As if the Seattle Seahawks’ beleaguered offensive line hasn’t come under enough fire — Russell Wilson has been sacked an NFL-high 18 times — now comes the defensive line duo of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Dunlap, a second-round selection out of the University of Florida in 2010, is fifth in the NFL with 3 1/2 sacks through four games. He also has five tackles for loss and 17 quarterback pressures at defensive end.

Atkins, a fourth-rounder out of Georgia in 2010, is 11th in the league with three sacks at defensive tackle. He also has four tackles for loss.

Both Atkins and Dunlap played the last time these two teams faced off in 2011 — a 34-12 Bengals’ victory in Seattle. Each had a sack in that game.

“I don’t recall (them) other than they were pups coming up at the time. But they are really good football players,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “They play a lot of plays, and stay on the field a lot.

“With this (Bengals) team, they’ve grown together, and you can see that continuity.”

It was that 2011 season when Atkins became a starter and led the team with 7 1/2 sacks, tying Oakland’s Tommy Kelly for the most sacks by a defensive tackle in the NFL. Atkins went to the Pro Bowl.

The next year, Atkins set a franchise-record with 12 1/2 sacks — the most by an interior defensive lineman since New Orleans nose tackle LaRoi Glover led the league with 17 in 2000.

Midway through the 2013 season, Atkins suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year, and he hasn’t really rounded into top form until this past offseason.

“He looks better than I’ve ever seen,” Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther told reporters in Cincinnati in September. “He’s a different guy. Hopefully he plays at a high level because he’s our best player.”

Atkins isn’t a loudmouth talker — but his Twitter handle (@GenoSacks) speaks volumes.

“He is high effort and is always around the ball,” Seahawks center Drew Nowak said. “That is tough to stop.

“You have to have a good punch and get on him first — just throw your hands and start at him before he gets started.”

Carroll added: “Geno has been a really good, active guy who has caused problems. You’ve got to know where he is — in the run and the pass game. … He’s a three-down guy.”

With Atkins as a middle anchor, his surrounding castmates surely benefit. One of them is the long-armed Dunlap. He was an impact rookie, leading the team with 9 1/2 sacks — the most in Bengals history by a first-year player.

Dunlap lines up mostly at left defensive end — a big assignment for inexperienced Seattle right tackle Gary Gilliam.

“He is a powerful guy who understands leverage,” Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung said. “He’s strong at the point of attack.”

Dunlap rarely comes off the field. He leads all Bengals defensive linemen by playing 218 snaps.

todd Milles: 253-597-8442

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

@ManyHatsMilles

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