Much like wide receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals' left tackle, Andrew Whitworth, has been receiving a lot of love from the media over the past couple of years. And, deservedly so. Aside from being a team captain, Whitworth has been a fringe Pro Bowl player over the past few seasons, being passed over for fellow AFC North tackles Joe Thomas and Michael Oher.
Even though Whitworth didn't have, by his own admission, the strongest 2011 campaign, it didn't stop him and fellow bookend, Andre Smith, from making Pat Kirwan's top-five NFL tackle tandems list. Kirwan uses a very simple formula to come to his rankings.
The tandem of Smith and Whitworth rank No.2 on Kirwan's list, behind only the Tennessee Titans combo of Michael Roos and David Stewart. By Kirwan's calculations, Smith and Whitworth accounted for 30 total games played and 560 pass plays. Of those 560 pass plays, the two combined to allow only 7.5 sacks, with Whitworth accounting for 5.5 and Smith for two. This amounts to a ratio of one sack per 75 pass plays. Stunning.
Even with the tumultuous start to his Bengals career, Smith has really turned things around and appears to be headed in the right direction. He re-dedicated himself to an offseason conditioning program last year and it paid off. The fact that he was so successful in transforming his body in an offseason with a lockout ensuing and no exposure to a structured training regimen was a very welcomed surprise. The results spoke for themselves last season and now Smith is aiming to become a "dominant run blocker".
What's also being overlooked here is the mobility of Andy Dalton. We saw him evade pressure numerous times in 2011 by scrambling around and making a quality throw on the run, or running for yardage. In the Carson Palmer era, plays like the ones that Dalton frequently made were not part and parcel of the Bengals offense. It's Dalton's escapability that helps pad these 2011 numbers.