"I'm going to approach it the same way I have these other players, but he's definitely a standout guy," Winters said. "Got to study him a little bit more than normal."
The Jets' rookie guard has a monumental task ahead of him on Sunday, when he will try to stonewall Cincinnati's Pro Bowl defensive tackle. While it's not a true homecoming for the rookie, he will be playing in his home state of Ohio, where he also played college ball at Kent State.
"It's about as big a challenge as it gets," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "[Atkins] is an outstanding player."
The Bengals line Atkins up over both left and right guard, meaning Winters and Willie Colon are going to be in for a battle. Colon, who played previously with the Steelers, is the only one of the two who has familiarity with Atkins.
Atkins is a phenomenal interior pass-rusher, totaling 24 sacks in his last 39 games, including four this season. He's aided by a deep and talented Cincinnati defensive line that ranks among the best in football, and makes it difficult for offenses to choose whom to double team. Cincinnati's defense is ninth in yards allowed.
To prepare for Atkins, Winters said he's asked to practice against fellow rookie, Sheldon Richardson, because he believes Atkins and Richardson have similar playing styles.
"[Atkins] has got a great motor. He's got low leverage, he's an athlete. That's what he brings to the table," Winters said. "He doesn't stop. He's one of those players. He's a go-getter."
Winters, a native of Hudson, Ohio, said he grew up approximately four hours from Cincinnati. The third-round pick said this game would be more of a homecoming for him if the Jets were playing in Cleveland, which is closer to his hometown. He's expecting about six or seven family members and friends to be in attendance at Paul Brown Stadium as the Jets look to improve to 5-3.
"It's not too far (away) but we should have a good crowd there," Winters said.
Winters will make his fourth straight start at left guard Sunday, as he supplanted Vladimir Ducasse on Oct. 7 and has held the position since. He's had ups and downs, like any rookie would, and is coming off a poor game as he allowed two sacks in the Jets' 30-27 overtime win over the Patriots on Sunday.
The rookie, who played left tackle for Kent State last season, has learned on the fly as he's transitioned to an interior line spot. He credited offensive line coach Mike Devlin, Colon and center Nick Mangold for helping him along the way, saying it's hard to not look good when playing next to Mangold.
"Each week is an increase," Winters said. "At first it was a little slow but as weeks go (by) I'm getting more comfortable with the plays being run. Doing well."