BENGALS DT GENO ATKINS VS. BEARS RG KYLE LONG
In one of those games that is simply going to be decided at the line of scrimmage, no questions asked, this matchup of sons of two of the tougher NFL players in the '80s and '90s is the marquee joust.
And that's saying something in a game that also features a franchise player (Bengals RE Michael Johnson) against the Bears big free-agent acquisition (LT Jermon Bushrod), as well as two first-rounders battling on the other edge in Bengals RT Andre Smith (2009) against Bears LE Shea McClellin (2012).
The 6-1, 303-pound Atkins, fresh off Monday's five-year, $55 million extension that reflects how the NFL views him following his 12.5-sack season, gets a first-round pick himself in the 6-6, 313-pound Long. Bears observers are raving how Long is the real deal. Big and athletic with a mean streak longer than his Hall of Fame dad, 6-5, 268-pound Howie Long.
And the Bengals know all about Kyle Long, one of the 30 prospects invited to a Paul Brown Stadium pre-draft visit. They've got high regard for him and as long as Andre Smith was unsigned Long was an option because the Bengals think he can play right tackle. They wouldn't have taken him with the 21st pick (a moot point when the Bears took him at 20), but the Bengals had high enough grades on Long they could have taken him at No. 37, high in the second round.
"I saw him as a second-rounder, but he's really surprised me how well he's adapted to guard," says draft guru Rob Rang of CBSSports.com. "He only played five games at guard at Oregon. He's a big, athletic guy, a rare combination for a guard. He's going to have to pull up his bootstraps when he goes against Geno.
"The knock on Geno coming out was his size. That he was too short, and his arms weren't long enough. But he's so quick, he's got such a burst, and he uses his leverage so well against big people and that's what Kyle Long is going to have to deal with. Geno gets up into your pads."
Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, an NFL guard for a decade, says this is going to be a new experience for Long. Even for an NFL son.
"(Long) has had a good preseason. I watched him against San Diego and he was dominant," Lapham says. "But this is the regular season against arguably one of the best in the game. I think they're going to help him. They won't let him go 1-on 1. That would be unfair. There are ways to slide the line and try to slow Geno down.
"Geno can use his leverage as a strength against a bigger guy; that's what he does (turning to his favorite metaphor to describe Atkins). It's like trying to block a bowling ball of knives coming at you. He's just relentless. He finished everything and he plays at a high level every snap."
The amazing thing to Lapham is not that Howie Long has two sons playing in the NFL, but that Geno is the product of 5-11, 200-pound Gene Atkins, a safety for the Saints and Dolphins during 10 seasons. Both with good gene pools, Lapham says.
But Atkins has a head start on the DNA, playing his 49th NFL game and looking for his 24th sack as he begins his fourth season.
(By the way, Howie Long, an end, had 18.5 sacks in his first three seasons.)
"(Kyle Long) has never felt the surge when Geno comes off the ball," Lapham says. "I don't think he's ever felt that before."