LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- While the Bears don’t have a single name on their injury report heading into Week 1, the Bengals could be without the services of their top offensive lineman on Sunday: Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
Whitworth, who underwent offseason surgery on his left knee, did not participate in practice on Wednesday or Thursday, increasing the likelihood that six-year veteran Anthony Collins will start at left tackle versus the Bears.
Whitworth was listed as doubtful on the final Friday injury report.
This is a potentially big loss for Cincinnati. Although Collins has NFL experience, Whitworth is the leader of the Bengals offensive line, with 67 straight starts -- Whitworth became the first Bengals offensive lineman voted to the Pro Bowl last year since Willie Anderson in 2006.
Expect the Bears to try and exploit Whitworth’s absence by leaving Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers lined up opposite Collins for much of the game on Sunday. Despite entering his 12th NFL season, Peppers remains a powerful pass-rusher who recorded a team-high 11.5 sacks in 2012 to give him 111.5 for his illustrious career.
Former Bengals offensive lineman and the team’s longtime radio analyst Dave Lapham told ESPN 1000’s “Chicago’s Gamenight” on Thursday evening how he anticipated the Bengals would defend Peppers without Whitworth on the field.
“In my opinion he’s [Whitworth] not going to play,” Lapham said. “I just don’t see it. If that’s the case, Anthony Collins goes at the left tackle position, who’s a very athletic guy. He was a basketball player and only played one year of high school football. He was an accomplished basketball player, but then went to Kansas and they beefed him up and he started playing offensive tackle for them. He played well and got some All-American mention for them. He’s got good feet.
"I don’t think he’ll have movement issues with respect to Julius Peppers, but Peppers can bull rush you now, too. He’s a strong dude. So I’ll be interested to see if Collins can hang in there against that bull rush that Peppers can employ to compliment that quickness that he’s got. If he can’t handle it there are ways you can help against Peppers too; you can put a tight end over there, chip with a back or slide the line. People aren’t going to say we can’t block him so we’ll just stay one-on-one.”
Lapham believes the Bears will take the same approach on the rookie right side of their offensive line when blocking Cincinnati Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins.