There's a sentimentality with Andrew Whitworth. Along with being the most overlooked offensive tackle that's rivaled the league's elite since since 2009, Whitworth is a fighter, the de facto leader, and the team's player representative. Viewed as an elite tackle in 2010, Whitworth won the fan vote portion of the Pro Bowl, only to be excluded from the all-star game after coaches and players submitted their ballots.
Whitworth went on a rant about the voting procedure last year.
"It’s a joke to me," he said Wednesday before the results were announced. "I don’t worry about that stuff every year. I plan to try and make the playoffs and do what I do and that's it. That's all you can do. It doesn't matter one way or the other to me. I know people probably think that’s crazy, but it really doesn't."
Ironically, Whitworth promoted from an alternate to the Pro Bowl because Broncos tackle Ryan Clady was dealing with a significant shoulder injury. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis praised Whitworth afterwards.
"This is recognition for Whit that we've felt was overdue," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "He's been a key part of all our success in recent years, a great player on the field and a key leader in our locker room."
WHY HE RANKED HERE
Whitworth is coming off his first Pro Bowl as an alternate after years of being looked over because of bigger names that earned significantly higher salaries with the coveted label of being a first-round status. According to the Pro Football Focus grading system, Whitworth scored the highest pass blocking score among all offensive tackles in the NFL last season.
There's the intangibles with Whitworth that are undefined by conventional means. When offensive linemen are tasked with protecting their quarterbacks, Whitworth complies with that meaning with extreme prejudice.
WHY HE SHOULDN'T RANK HERE
While still a significant impact pass blocker, Whitworth has noticeably declined as a run blocker. Poor performances in the team's running game articulates a slight decline in production; though it might be temporary. Yet, this is a trend that began in 2011, partly due to a leg injury that's lowered his overall strength to drive defenders.
Whitworth is one of the league's best pass blockers but a mediocre run blocker. At least for now. Over the offseason, the Bengals starting left tackle underwent the knife to finally repair damage in his knee. And there's optimism that Whitworth may return to his once elite form as a balanced tackle.
"I thought it was a thing I could tough out, but it kind of wears on you,"Whitworth said in March. "It was time to get it fixed and I feel great. I don't feel any different than the first day I played in the NFL."