Coming out of Cincinnati's 24-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night, there were some concerns raised about Andrew Whitworth's performance. And clearly there were a handful of plays that Andre Whitworth noticeably struggled which were highlighted because of the negative impact they had on the play themselves. Though to a much lesser extent, John Abraham bull-rushed Whitworth into Andy Dalton with over 13 minutes remaining in the second quarter. Thankfully the omnipresent Dalton released the football, hitting Donald Lee over the middle for 22 yards.
Then the struggles really came.
With 12:40 remaining in the second quarter, the Falcons responded to Cincinnati's three-wide single-back formation with nickel. John Abraham was well outside of Whitworth, also known as the "D-Gap".
Abraham fired off the line, almost as if he anticipated the count (and if that's the case, that's a problem from the quarterback and a bigger problem on the lineman). Whitworth tried shoving Abraham off trajectory, just enough for Cedric Peerman to receive the handoff and make his way to the line of scrimmage. He wasn't able to.
Abraham's speed allowed him to circle around Whitworth and wrap Peerman for a no-gain.
That being said my question here is this:
Was Andrew Whitworth late shifting down? Consider that there were no stunts and Abraham was already in the D-Gap before the snap, meaning there was no deception. Whitworth knew exactly where his guy was, the angle to ensure the block and where to position himself. Or did Andy Dalton's cadence hit a rhythm that defenders were keying off of? Look at the moment after Dalton received the snap.
While the rest of the defensive line were lifting from their three-point stance, Abraham clearly had a head-start over everyone else, even before Cincinnati's left tackle could make his first step. Perhaps it was just a slow reaction from Whitworth, combined with Abraham's quickness. Maybe it was a cadence problem from Dalton. Maybe it was a combination of both.
But it wasn't always a struggle. Two plays later with 11:41 remaining in the first half, Abraham is split out wide on third-and-six from Cincinnati's 49-yard line. Andy Dalton didn't just have a perfect pocket. It was the friggin' Wall of China.
Then the inconsistency returned on the next play. Abraham took a wide angle, turning his shoulders giving himself an advantage over Whitworth.
The Bengals starting left tackle tried dragging the defensive end to the ground, but Abraham managed to collide into Dalton's feet.
Dalton escaped but threw an incomplete pass to Colin Cochart. Two plays later A.J. Green gave Cincinnati a 10-3 lead on a 50-yard touchdown with over ten minutes remaining in the second quarter. John Abraham was absolutely NOT a factor on the play. Why? Andrew Whitworth.
Abraham tried an inside move. Didn't work.
Then he tried to spin outside.
That didn't didn't work either.
No. This isn't a struggle from Whitworth. This became an epic battle between two great players at their respective positions. If you can't see that for what it is, then you're either too willing to cast Whitworth into oblivious suckage, or struggle to see the true glory of football -- even if it is preseason. There's no doubt that Whitworth had moments where he was beat Thursday. But it's not like Whitworth was facing a second-team scrub player. This is John Abraham, who was a First-Team All-Pro two years ago that's recorded 22.5 quarterback sacks combined in the past two seasons and Whitworth conquered him just as much, if not more, counting the number of plays each player participated in.
That being said, it wasn't just Abraham giving Whitworth a battle. Or a struggle for that matter. As we said. Whitworth did struggle at times.
With under six minutes remaining in the second quarter, Andrew Whitworth angled to his right with the rest of the offensive line, naturally leaving Abraham alone. Instead Whitworth targeted Ray Edwards, a product of Woodward High School in Cincinnati. Due to the angle and Edwards' speed, Whitworth was unable to slow Edwards' angle and progress, dropping Cedric Peerman for a four-yard loss.
It happens. Either way Whitworth will rebound. He's no different than a struggling quarterback finding his rhythm with receivers. If this were week four or seven, then there could be justifiable concern. But he has time for corrections like everyone else.