As the Cincinnati Bengals begin to rotate linemen at the right tackle position in an effort to help their young second-year starter learn on the job, the team got some good news yesterday about the left tackle position, where their longtime stalwart, Andrew Whitworth, has played since the 2009 season.
During the course of the Bengals’ win over the Browns on Sunday, Whitworth’s helmet sustained damage, which prompted some questions from the league’s independent neurologist. At some point during the fourth quarter, he was pulled out of the game, and the veteran has been working his way during the course of the week through the concussion protocol.
But he finally received clearance on Thursday, which is fortunate, given that the team is about to fly over the London in order to face Washington. The Redskins are 4-1, but went on a four-game winning streak until they dropped their last game. the Bengals have gone 2-4 since narrowly escaping defeat in the season opener.
Among the many problems that the Bengals have dealt with on the offensive side of the ball this year has been some instability along the offensive line, particularly from the right tackle position, so jumbling the left tackle position and leaving both book end positions of the line vulnerable, in unfamiliar territory, would certainly have presented an obstacle for Cincinnati on Sunday.
The offensive line has already given up 22 sacks this year, which is only 10 sacks behind the total number of sacks that they gave up all of last season. At the current rate, the Bengals are on pace to give up 50 sacks on the season, which would be 18 more, or an increase of 56 percent.
For as much attention as had been paid to the turnover at offensive coordinator and at the wide receiver position, not to mention the slow return to play of their Pro Bowl tight end, the inability of the offensive line to consistently protect their quarterback and open lanes in the running game has held back their productivity as much as anything.
While they still managed to give up three sacks on Sunday, the game did provide an exception to their struggles in the run game. Entering the game, they had just 539 rushing yards through six games, an average of under 90 yards per game. But after a huge 271-yard performance, they are now averaging 115.7 yards per game, 10th in the league. Their previous rushing total would be 24th right now.
The Redskins rank 26th in the league defensively against the run, so the Bengals will certainly be looking to continue their forward progress in the ground game on Sunday, making the ability to have all hands on deck all the more important. Whitworth is not only their best offensive lineman, in many ways he is the captain of the unit, and certainly the heart of the offensive line, who has missed just two games in the past eight years.