Every professional sports team has a poster boy--a symbol of what the team represents. Sometimes that person stays remains at the center of the franchise's history, while others are generational symbols of the team. A "Mr. Fill-In-The-Blank", of sorts.
For the Cincinnati Bengals, there are an abundance of names that spring to mind. Boomer Esiason, Ken Anderson, Willie Anderson and/or the team's only Hall of Fame player, Anthony Munoz. They all help to make up a Bengals Mt. Rushmore, if you will. Though he hasn't received many accolades, current Bengals offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth could fall into that same group.
Aside from being outstanding on the field, Whitworth has been an exemplary guy in the locker room and in the community. Though he has had the luck of living through some of the best days in franchise history, he has also tasted the disappointment of five one-and-done playoff losses during his career.
If there is a national sportswriter who is in minority by praising the Cincinnati Bengals, it's CBS Sports' Pete Prisco. In a recent post, Prisco lists his candidates for "most underrated player" on each NFL team. Whitworth got the nod for Cincinnati, with the longtime writer giving this generation's potential "Mr. Bengal" the distinction of being the most underrated player in the league.
He's 34-year-old veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth of the Cincinnati Bengals. Whitworth is a pro's pro, and he is one of the best left tackles in the league, yet has been to just one Pro Bowl in his career. He was outstanding last year, but wasn't a Pro Bowl choice.
Two years ago, when the Bengals were having problems inside, he moved to guard and was a road grader to help the run game. Back at left tackle last season, he didn't give up a sack.
So what happens? The Bengals drafted two tackles with their first two picks in the May draft and Whitworth heads into 2015 in the final year of his deal. That didn't sit well with Whitworth, who made some public comments about the picks, but don't expect him to slack off. He is a grinder, a player who loves the game and whether in Cincinnati or somewhere else -- likely the latter -- he will play on and play well after this season.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth: Year in and year out, he's consistently one of the best of the left tackles in the game, and rarely gets noticed. Andy Dalton notices.
All good reasons to name him the most underrate player. However, on Friday, longtime Cincy Jungle friend, Dave Wellman, AKA "BeerRun", made an interesting point via Twitter. His nominee for the title was defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who has become an indispensable player in his own right on this Bengals defense.
Though Dunlap has yet to rack up double-digit sacks in any of his first five seasons, he is highly-rated by Pro Football Focus almost annually in pressures and has improved against the run. The defense has always been pretty highly-rated since Dunlap has joined the team in 2010, and one could argue he was the best player on defense last season. In fact, you, the readers, voted him as the team's defensive MVP in our "CJ's" Award series.
Then again, you also voted Whitworth as the team's MVP from last season as well.