Back to current day, we look at Whitworth in Week 6 against the Browns. The Bengals are running an outside zone run, and Whitworth takes a bucket step outside to attempt to hook our old friend, defensive end Frostee Rucker.
This play illustrates why Whitworth struggled so much in run blocking. He needed to drive off his right leg to make the difficult reach block on Rucker. But without being able to explode off the ball, Whitworth is robbed of his immediacy and Rucker sees him coming.
It was hard to find a very clear shot, but in the picture above Rucker has easily thrown a lunging Whitworth to the ground. Whit failed to keep his feet underneath him because of his limitations that caused him to resort to desperate measures to make the block. Rucker causes BenJarvus Green-Ellis to stop his momentum and redirect, which is not what a downhill runner like the Law Firm needs to be successful.
This is why the Bengals found much success later in the season when they began running to the right side of the line. Whit was able to seal off the backside much more easily than be the lead dog on the run.
Again, back to the Steelers in 2009. Although Nate Livings missed his block and allowed Cedric Benson to be dropped for a loss (does that bring back memories?), Whitworth shot off the ball and was able to effectively engage James Harrison in space.
Using his surprisingly quick feet, Whitworth beat Harrison to the spot, established his base and gained leverage using his powerful punch. As shown, Whitworth has rolled his hips and is able to push Harrison wherever he pleases, due to the fact that he was able to reach Harrison so quickly.
While Big Whit may never again play at the level he did in his healthy years, a compromise in the middle will still make Whitworth one of the premier tackles in the league due to his increased awareness and knowledge gleaned over the past few seasons.
Drafting and grooming a project tackle, much like Whitworth was out of LSU, would be a smart move. Remember how much Whitworth struggled against the speed rush of Dwight Freeney in his first start against the Colts in 2006? He developed technique from the raw, physical specimen that he was entering the league.
It may be time for offensive line coach Paul Alexander to once again work his magic, much like he has with other unheralded prospects like Kyle Cook and Clint Boling, or with seemingly lost causes like Andre Smith.
But, for now, Whitworth has been playing at a level that makes his Pro Bowl appearance understandable and any improvement upon that would be exciting to see. Even further, for a young team, Whitworth’s leadership and inspiration, whether in words or taking issue with cheap shots from Henderson or Lamarr Houston, is an invaluable asset.