As we continue to preview the Bengals players entering the 2012 season, we now look at the captain and rock of the Bengals for the past three seasons.
When the Bengals selected Andrew Whitworth in the 2nd-round of the 2006 NFL draft, it was expected that he would be one of the teams’ future guards. After an injury to Pro Bowl LT Levi Jones in 2006, those plans changed and Whitworth came in off the bench and started in 12 games. He filled in admirably and helped the Bengals maintain their #8 ranking in total offense.
From there, Whitworth would start 26 games at LG the next two seasons after Pro Bowl LG Eric Steinbach departed in free agency. In 2009, Whitworth moved back to his natural LT spot, and started all 16 games and was graded as Pro Football Focus’ 5th best LT.
In 2010, he again started all 16 games, and managed to edge out Jake Long as PFF’s top offensive tackle. This year, Whitworth again was an anchor at his LT spot, and was selected as second alternate in the Pro Bowl for the AFC. PFF also rated Whitworth‘s pass-protection grade second only to Joe Thomas , and only two offensive tackles allowed fewer total pressures than the 20 Whitworth allowed this season. Overall, PFF rated Whit as the 3rd-most efficient pass-blocker over the past three seasons. He did this while blocking for the statue that was Carson Palmer, and Andy Dalton whose mobility led to Whit having to hold his blocks longer.
While the big Whit has thrived as pass-blocker, his run-blocking skills have been average at best. PFF gave him a -7.7 run blocking grade, 2nd-worst to that of the now departed Nate Livings. This is the one aspect of Whitworth’s game that is holding him back from being one of the elite tackles in the NFL. If he can finally develop the strength to get movement on opposing defenders, he’ll quickly find himself in the Pro Bowl next year and being mentioned as one of the NFL’s Top 100 players, a list he’s been absurdly blacklisted from two years in a row now.
One things for sure: He’s been a consistent bright spot for a franchise that hasn’t had many. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll continue to be a rock on the o-line and the leader this young Bengals team needs as they look to compete for the AFC North crown.