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Bengals mailbag: Will Geno Atkins show?

CINCINNATI -- With arguably one of their biggest quarterback tests looming, the Cincinnati Bengals will need one of their most effective pass rushes of the season Sunday night when they visit the New England Patriots.

Call Tom Brady washed up if you want, but the Bengals don't view the future Hall of Fame quarterback that way at all. Last Monday's game notwithstanding, the Bengals still believe Brady is among the best quarterbacks in the league and that he'll be doubly motivated to succeed this week after so miserably failing in the 41-14 blowout at Kansas City.

Because the Bengals are expecting Brady's best shot, it stands to reason that he ought to brace for theirs, too. That's why many Bengals fans are hopeful they finally see the Geno Atkins of old this week. That's where we begin with this week's mailbag:

@ColeyHarvey: One has to imagine that the Geno of old will be coming around the bend any minute now ... or maybe he won't. The thing about Atkins is that when it comes to flat-out physically dominating an offensive line, he doesn't appear to have quite the same ability that he had before his ACL tear last year. He hasn't really made his presence much known in the backfield after being a constant presence there the first four years of his career. But even if that's the case, when coaches talk about Atkins' recovery and how well he's fit so far, you get the impression that they couldn't be prouder. They're pleased with the way he has clogged rushing lanes and with the way he has taken advantage of a decent load of snaps early in the season after an ACL tear. While it probably would be nice to see a little more explosion and overall dominance from him, the Bengals don't necessarily need the old Atkins for now. Defensive ends Wallace Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap are getting good push, and the Bengals are getting pressure from other places. To that end, I think the pass rush will remain solid this week. With Brady behind center, it has to be.

@ColeyHarvey: Eventually we're going to see Hill's production shoot up, Richard. Part of the reason we're seeing comparatively low numbers has to do with the Bengals trying not to overwork the rookie too soon. They want to keep his legs fresh for the stretch run and playoffs; times of the year I could see them wanting to ride the physical back as defenses start wearing down and getting more fatigued. Will Hill outproduce Giovani Bernard? It's doubtful, but depending upon the flow of a particular game, it's entirely possible it might happen once or twice. The Bengals do like Hill a lot; that's a fact.

@ColeyHarvey: The play calling has been quite diverse, especially when you consider everything the Bengals have done with some of their most versatile players, such as receiver Mohamed Sanu. When it comes to between-the-tackles runs, I can assure you the Bengals believe there are compelling enough reasons to run them, whether it's on first, second or third down. One of the most compelling reasons? Because they wear the defense down. There might be a few games when they don't gain many yards, but they stick with the run. The reason why they do that is to get the defense tired and to try to open up play-action opportunities. This game could be a good one for them to do some of that. As far as getting the yards per carry up, here's a post from late Friday that addresses one improvement the Bengals want to make.

@ColeyHarvey: Thanks for the question, John. Yes, folks, in case you didn't see, I predicted the Bengals would lose Sunday, 23-21. While I believe wholeheartedly that the Bengals can win and win in convincing fashion (check out my W2W4 post Sunday morning for reasons why), I also happen to think they might end up losing this game. Chief among my concerns are the fact that this is a prime-time game on the road. As we've discussed all week, they don't do well in those situations. Also among my concerns is the fact that New England is coming off a game in which it just got completely run over. The Patriots are quite good at making game-by-game adjustments and not letting losses like that linger. I believe Brady could be so upset coming off that loss that he completes multiple touchdown passes. Let's see the Bengals prove me wrong.

@ColeyHarvey: Darqueze Dennard did play well in limited action against the Titans in Week 3. He had a big sack not long after he came into that game. It's tough to say how much his playing time might increase or decrease across the next few games, primarily because the Bengals are pretty much squared away at cornerback ahead of him. It would take an injury to another corner or a few more blowout wins in order to get him on the field on defense more regularly in the next few weeks. Don't read into the first-round pick's lack of playing time to be a suggestion he can't play. He can. Coach Marvin Lewis has called him the best rookie he's ever seen. But it's going to take some time, and attrition above him on the depth chart.