Our own Anthony Cosenza devised a top-five list (read list, not stupid photo gallery) of players that he expects to have a breakout season in 2012. It's a good list. However some our of loyal and clear-thinking readers followed that up with players that they expect to decline, ranging from Nate Clements and even Andrew Whitworth. What? Hold the phone. Stop the presses. Hear me speak with a booming voice that would make Titans tremble.
According to Pro Football Focus, he was overall better than all but five left tackles in the NFL. His pass blocking score of 16.6 was second to only Joe Thomas in Cleveland. Of the left tackles that took part in over 1,000 offensive snaps in 2011, only three gave up less sacks than Whitworth's three. Additionally the Bengals starting left tackle allowed only three hits on Andy Dalton (not sacks) and only 14 hurries.
Folks. This was the production of a player that most people defined as having a "down year". Is that fair? Should one be defined in decline after one season perceived as "bad"? Now the Devil's Advocate, the other side of the argument that can strengthen those that claim it. We are, after all, clear thinkers with an honest attempt to at level-headed and balanced thinking.
Whitworth's solid dominance as a pass blocker could largely be explained by Cincinnati's offensive philosophy. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden did his best to protect (at the time) rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, calling shorter drops, quick releases and roll outs. By limiting the time Dalton sits in the pocket, it shortens the requirement to keep the pocket protected by Whitworth and the rest of the offensive line. As a result, of the quarterbacks with 400 pass attempts or more last season, only three quarterbacks were sacked less than Dalton. That's not a detriment to anyone on the offensive line; it just worked better that way.
Secondly Whitworth's performance as a run blocker was a struggle last season. He explained in April that muscle loss in his left leg dramatically reduced his ability to push, thus negating his strength.
Basically my quad shut down. There was a lot of muscle loss in the muscle of my left leg and I've built it back up. I'm back to working out, doing what I normally do," he says. "Yoga. Stretching. I never had to stop. It's about tolerating the pain.
"You're still able to play and perform. You don’t get as much push as you normally would in the running game. The real issue is once you get out over your knee, its pretty week. That's pretty hard not to be able to do in the run game."
Perhaps benefit of the doubt should be applied to Whitworth for now. Whether an offensive philosophy dictates fewer pressures against the quarterback, or an injury that neutralizes his push in the run game, Whitworth's performance last season persuades little concern. It was one year. Not a trend.
+ Evan Silva hasn't been very kind to the Bengals in his random musings on twitter. And Bengals fans are repaying in kind. We countered his wild out-of-nowhere point that the Bengals are overrated, mentioning it in the same tweet comparing them to the Eagles from last season. Truth be told we don't really care that he said it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, no matter what they think. We're just confused on where he's getting the belief that the Bengals are projected as one of the league's best teams to make the point initially. Even most Bengals fans understand that while it appears personnel has improved, there's still a lot of work to be done.
+ Training Camp Previews: Tight Ends | Running Backs (Part II)
+ Linebacker Thomas Howard ranked as one of the league's more efficient tackling linebackers.
+ BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored 18 of his 24 rushing touchdowns in goal-to-go situations in the past two years.