AFC South: Andrew Whitworth

Quick Take: Bengals at Texans

January, 1, 2012
Three things to know about next weekend’s Cincinnati Bengals-Houston Texans wild-card game:

A rookie quarterback is going to the AFC’s Final Four: Much is made of how much of a strain is put on a rookie quarterback in a playoff game. But this game is going to feature two of them in T.J. Yates and Andy Dalton, which means a team led by a first-year signal-caller is going to be playing in the AFC’s divisional round on Jan. 14 or 15. Teams can turn conservative and rely on running games and defenses in the playoffs, even with a veteran quarterback, simply asking him to do no harm. Maybe that’s the script here. But Cincinnati’s gotten a lot out of Dalton this season, and the Texans have insisted they aren’t scaling back for Yates. So perhaps we’ll see one of these guys win a game rather than not lose it.

The Bengals are capable of slowing Houston’s pass rush: The Texans got to Dalton for just one sack in that first meeting. Houston’s super-active defensive front can call on eight different guys who have recorded a sack this season. The group swarms from all different angles and doesn’t worry much about what the other team is doing so long as it’s executing the game plan of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. In seven games this season, the Texans dragged the quarterback down at least three times. Cincinnati’s got a big offensive line, keyed around left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Phillips’ plan and the Texans' execution both need to be better. It doesn’t have to produce sacks, just discomfort and a mistake or two from Dalton. Houston bats down a lot of balls, that can be a factor, too.

Yates had his best game against this defense: When the Texans beat the Benglas 20-19 at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 11 and clinched the AFC South, Yates was starting just his second game. He led two 80-yard scoring drives in the fourth quarter, and tossed the game-winning touchdown pass to Kevin Walter with 2 second left. He threw for a season-best 300 yards even without receiver Andre Johnson playing. But he was sacked three times and threw an interception, and the Bengals will surely look back and feel like they had a recipe for making him uncomfortable. If they can find it and replicate it minus the bad ending, they are certainly capable of springing an upset at Reliant Stadium. The odds are low of the Bengals winning if they allow the Texans to convert 56 percent on third down like they did in the first matchup.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans aren’t doing a great job getting to the passer, with an average of less than two sacks a game.

In their last two losses, they have totalled one.

Sunday at LP Field they’ll be going against a big Cincinnati line that’s given up only a dozen sacks this season, keyed by left tackle Andrew Whitworth, an underrated guy who’s becoming premier.

“They’re group up front, they’re huge, they are all working well together, the ball is coming out quick, the quarterback (Andy Dalton) doing a good job of that for a young guy,” said Titans coach Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman. “He’s a good football player, hard to get around, heavy with his hands.”

The Titans will send defensive end Dave Ball at Whitworth, supplementing him with William Hayes if he’s recovered from back issues and earns his way back into action, or Malcolm Sheppard.

Whitworth vs. Ball will be a size versus speed matchup -- Whitworth is 6-foot-7 and 335 pounds, while Ball is 6-5, 255.

“Whitworth might be the best left tackle in the league right now, or at least is playing that way,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said.

He’s heavier than Titans left tackle Michael Roos.

“I like the way he plays, he’s kind of under-the-radar, quiet,” Roos said. “He does his job, he does it well. I don’t think he gets enough credit.”

He’s a fan too, of Whitworth’s look.

“We both have shaved heads,” he said, with a laugh.
Regular visitors know I am not big on being able to assess line play in great detail. Our left tackle power rankings probably rely on word of mouth and reputation as much as any position we’ve ranked.

As you will hear me say in the video connected to Pat Yasinskas’ post revealing and explaining our overall rankings, I don’t believe there is a consensus best guy. While Joe Thomas is a great player, a couple national folks spent time with him, fell in love, and pumped him as the best guy.

A lot of other media, in need of a best guy, jumped on board. Thomas is a very good player, but he’s not a consensus best left tackle in the league among players, scouts and coaches. If readers think he should be, it’s largely because writers have set it up that way.

So you can get the overall rankings through the above link. Here’s my ballot, one of eight that factored into things.
  1. Jake Long
  2. Michael Roos
  3. Joe Thomas
  4. Jordan Gross
  5. Ryan Clady
  6. Marcus McNeill
  7. Donald Penn
  8. D'Brickashaw Ferguson
  9. Andrew Whitworth
  10. Jason Peters