The Cincinnati Bengals' season ended Sunday afternoon in part because of their futile pass rushing efforts.
"This year, he was just three-technique No. 20, in my mind," Guenther said, per ESPN.com "He was just a guy out there."
Coming off ACL surgery in 2013, Atkins didn't show much burst until Week 8, but even then he struggled to get to the quarterback. Sunday, the Bengals desperately needed Atkins to disrupt Andrew Luck in the pocket and have a game like the ones that earned him a five-year, $55 million contract extension last year.
"I always tell them our best players have to play good in these big games," Guenther said. "All the time. It can't be sometimes. It's got to be all the time. If our best players don't play good then there is a big chance we are not going to play good."
The question for the Bengals is whether Atkins needs more time for the explosion to fully return or whether the ACL injury has done irreparable damage to his game.
"We need to get him back to where he was, being that game-wrecker there inside," Guenther said. "Otherwise, we need to go find a new inside rusher."