PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 12: Andrew Whitworth #77 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on December 12 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Last year Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth slowly made impressions with convincing arguments that he should be identified as one of the league’s premier left tackles. Fans across the league, a full 398 days after the movie Blind Side was released, voted Andrew Whitworth as the league’s top offensive tackle. Players and coaches didn’t reflect the sentiment with Miami’s Jake Long, Cleveland’s Joe Thomas and New York’s D’Brickashaw Ferguson getting the nod. It generated some ire from Bengals fans (notably yours truly), especially considering that more advanced analysis labeled Whitworth as the league’s top offensive tackle in 2010. Pro Football Focus, which we’ll use throughout this posting, gave him a score of 24.6 for the season.
This year fans voted Baltimore’s Michael Oher as the top offensive tackle in the AFC, securing 327,844 votes despite the fact that he’s ranked as the 32nd overall tackle by Pro Football Focus with a grade of -3.6, allowing six quarterback sacks and 31 quarterback pressures – only eight players allowed more pressure. And for those of you citing the movie based on his life The Blind Side, remember that a year after its release, Oher didn’t win last year and it’s been 761 days since its release when the Fan Vote was announced on Wednesday.
For the sake of Pro Bowl discussions, it makes little difference. Andrew Whitworth has struggled this season, especially as a run blocker, most notably against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks. Three left tackles scored worse scores as run blockers than Whitworth’s -8.5 this season. Though it’s a little hard to tell considering that any rushing attempt to Kyle Cook’s left is averaging 4.05 yards/rush. Comparatively speaking any rushing attempt to Kyle Cook’s right is averaging 4.07 yards/rush. Balance is good, m-kay?
On the other hand Cincinnati’s starting left tackle posted one of the league’s top pass blocking scores this year, allowing only 13 quarterback pressures and three quarterback sacks – Whitworth allowed three quarterback sacks and only 14 quarterback pressures last season. Struggling might be harsh as an overall term: Strong in pass protection, struggling within the running game. That works. But there’s more.
The issue of penalties. Through 14 games this season, Whitworth has been flagged with a team-high nine penalties. Of those nine, three were false starts, four offensive holdings, an illegal use of the hands and illegal downfield pass that was declined.
This hasn’t been a season-long issue either with Whitworth. He was graded as one of the top offensive tackles through the first four games, allowing no quarterback sacks and only one quarterback hit. The issue penalties didn’t even surface until week six when his record of perfection witnessed its first blemish.
No matter how great they are, all players struggle. Whitworth is no different, dealing with his own struggles in run blocks and reducing the amount of infractions being committed.
But the question of Pro Bowl shouldn’t be asked. It just hasn’t been his year.