Tag:Andrew Whitworth
Posted on: November 9, 2011 7:17 pm
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Film Room: Bengals vs. Steelers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



So let’s get this straight: the Steelers, at a respectable 6-3, are in third place of the AFC North? And it’s not the soft-scheduled Browns they’re chasing, but rather, the dysfunctional Bengals?

We’re going to find out over the next two months whether the Bengals are a Cinderella story or a farce. First, let’s establish some expectations by examining what the film has revealed over the past two months.



1. The ginger rookie & Jon Gruden’s brother
There’s a growing movement to anoint Andy Dalton the Offensive Rookie of the Year instead of Cam Newton. That’s a fair. Dalton’s team is 6-2, Newton’s is 2-6. But let’s keep our perspective and remember that Dalton is NOT the physical specimen that Newton is. He doesn’t have Newton’s arm, wheels or athletic improv skills. And he’s not being asked to do the same things as Newton.

That said, Dalton has been much closer to Newton’s athletic level than anyone would have ever guessed. He has shown the arm strength to make just about every throw that first-year offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has asked of him. He’s been poised when operating from a muddied pocket, and he’s very good at releasing the ball on the move.

Gruden has done a phenomenal job playing to Dalton’s strengths. The Bengals have a balanced attack that hinges on play-action and rollouts, two concepts that slice the field for a quarterback and help define his reads (see graphic). Gruden also incorporates a lot of three-and five-step drops – another simplification tactic. As a result, the Bengals offense has not only been nearly mistake-free but also calm and consistent.

A play-action rollout simplifies things for a quarterback by essentially slicing the field in half. In this sample (against a basic two-man coverage), a fake handoff compels the defense to flow left. The only defenders who go right are the ones responsible for the two receivers running their patterns to the right.

Quarterbacking 101 teaches you to never throw across your body or back across the field. Thus, after the quarterback rolls out, he only has to read the right side of the field, which consists of nothing but his two receivers and their defensive matchups. Often, the read is simplified even more by throwing to wherever the free safety is not giving help-coverage. If a play is there, it’s easy for the quarterback to see.

If nothing’s there, the quarterback has plenty of room to throw the ball away or scramble.

2. The “sure thing” receiver & other weapons
Wideout A.J. Green has been exactly what you’d expect a No. 4 overall pick to be in Year One. He’s averaging roughly five catches, 75 yards and a little more than half a touchdown per game. He’s clearly Dalton’s go-to guy, being targeted almost automatically when facing one-on-one coverage. Green has a wide catching radius thanks to uncommon body control and a great vertical leap. He’ll climb to the top echelon of receivers once he polishes his route running (he has a bad tendency to yield ground and inside positioning on downfield patterns).

The receiving weapons around Green have been solid. Jermaine Gresham can cause matchup problems in the flats. Veteran Donald Lee has filled in well in the wake of Gresham’s hamstring injury the past two weeks. Jerome Simpson has shown why the team did not discipline him harshly after police found Costco amounts of marijuana in his home this past September. To be blunt, Simpson’s quickness is too valuable to take off the field. He’s much more reliable than Andre Caldwell.

Surprisingly, the black-and-blue ground game that figured to define Cincy’s offense has been extremely average thus far (the statistics support this, as Cincy ranks 28th with 3.7 yards per carry). Cedric Benson is a methodical, patient runner who needs steady blocking in order to thrive. He has gotten that, but not at the level he did two years ago when he averaged nearly 100 yards per game.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, despite a poor outing last week, has played at a Pro Bowl level, and right tackle Andre Smith has flashed astonishing power a few times. But the interior line and ancillary blockers (such as a sixth offensive lineman/fullback/tight end) have been up-and-down.

3. Defensive Overview
The Bengals have a deep, active defensive line that’s extremely potent against the run but just so-so against the pass. Tackles Geno Atkins and Pat Sims both regularly win phone booth matchups in impressive fashion, and Domata Peko almost always punishes teams who try to block him one-on-one. If he’s not penetrating, he’s stalemating in a way that allows teammates to make plays.
 
None of these inside players are dominant pass-rushers, though. And there isn’t much firepower outside. End Michael Johnson uses his athleticism in myriad ways but is not a regular presence in the backfield. Intriguing second-year pro Carlos Dunlap replaces Robert Geathers on passing downs. Dunlap, with his unusual upright style and sinewy explosiveness, is certainly capable of reaching the quarterback, but he’s also capable of disappearing for long stretches.

An impotent pass-rush can put considerable pressure on a secondary. Leon Hall is an elite cover corner who does not command a lot of safety help over the top. Using him in isolated solo coverage is a double-edge sword that has stabbed opponents slightly more than it’s stabbed the Bengals this season. Safeties Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker are hit-or-miss in coverage but capable of playing in space or the box. They give Mike Zimmer options.

Veteran Nate Clements has done a commendable job replacing Johnathan Joseph. Clements has been especially aggressive in short, underneath coverage. Helping in this facet is the fact that linebackers Thomas Howard and Manny Lawson both move well in the flats. It’s a little surprising that Lawson, who is replaced by Brandon Johnson in nickel (Johnson is the more comfortable of the two between the tackles), hasn’t been asked to put his hand in the dirt on passing downs.

4. Something to consider
This is a sharp, fundamentally sound defense that plays well as a unit in Mike Zimmer’s fairly aggressive scheme. But it’s also a defense that has yet to be tested. Look at the Bengals’ schedule thus far. They opened against Cleveland and Denver, two teams with major problems at wide receiver.

They faced San Francisco in Week 3, a good team but a very, very basic offense. They beat Buffalo in Week 4. Buffalo has a much-improved offense, but they’re not exactly Green Bay. Or even Dallas (never mind what the stats might say). After that it was Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Seattle, three teams with a total of zero proven quarterbacks. Last week the Bengals handled a Tennessee offense that’s respectable but nothing close to dynamic (especially through the air).

You couldn’t ask to face a more banal collection of offenses. This defense is fantastic against the run, but it remains to be seen how it will respond against a rhythmic, up-tempo passing attack.  

5. Matchup with the Steelers
Pittsburgh does have an elite, formidable offense. Cincinnati’s ho-hum pass-rush is not ideal for defending Ben Roethlisberger’s late-in-the-down magic.

The Bengals at least catch a break with wideout Emmanuel Sanders being out (arthroscopic knee surgery). Sanders would have given the Steelers aerial attack third source of speed, which Zimmer’s nickel unit may not be equipped to combat. Instead, it will be either Hines Ward or Jericho Cotchery threatening to catch six-yard slants out of the slot.

On the other side, the only defense comparable to Pittsburgh’s that this Cincy offense has faced is San Francisco’s in Week 3. The Niners were physical in taking away the receivers’ quick routes. The result was eight points and a 1/10 third down success rate for the Bengals. However, Dalton’s game has expanded since then. If need be, it’s possible, though not probable, that he’ll be able to put the team on his back and open things up for the first time this season.

Unless there continues to be slews of the fortuitous field position breaks that this Bengals offense has frequently enjoyed this season, he’ll need to.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 10 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 5:45 pm
 

Whitworth backs Benson on NFLPA issue

BensonPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Though the Bengals had lost a brutally-bad 13-8 game* to the 49ers on Sunday, the scribes found time to ask running back Cedric Benson about his appeal of his three-game suspension and about the fact he’s disgusted that that NFLPA supposedly agreed to allow the league to suspend eight players for activities that occurred during the lockout.

*Not surprisingly, CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyel was unimpressed with the performance of both teams.

Benson told reporters (via the Cincinnati Enquirer), “There were some things in the CBA that we were not made aware of, which is really no surprise. That kind of falls on the PA. You would think they’re here to support you and have your back, that’s what a union does. I guess, in my case, it’s different.”

It does seem odd that Roger Goodell would choose to suspend Benson and leave alone Kenny Britt and Aqib Talib -- even though all three are multiple-time league policy offenders. And it is very odd that the NFLPA would feel the need to sacrifice eight players in order to make nice with the league. The NFLPA, though, still denies there has been any kind of agreement.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals player representative, spoke on the matter today, and he came down on the side of his teammate.

 "The union let those eight guys down,” Whitworth said, via Rapid Reporter Paul Dehner. “I don’t feel like that was fair. To me, if I was told that was a make or break, I would've said that’s a make or break deal that we were going to sell out eight guys to have an agreement."

Like Benson, Whitworth said he wasn’t aware of the union’s decision to allow those eight players (all of whom have at least two league policy offenses) to (possibly) be punished while the 16 first-time offenders get off without any punishment at all.

Meanwhile, we all sit here and wait for the NFLPA’s response, because you’d think at some point they will have to disclose its reasons for making this agreement (assuming, of course, that it did make an agreement).  And while the union might have a perfectly good explanation why it would allow this kind of covenant, I imagine the players the NFLPA represents will feel like DeMaurice Smith sold them out.

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Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:28 am
 

Bengals ink CB Leon Hall to $39 million extension

Posted by Ryan Wilson

When the Bengals opted not to re-sign 2006 first-round pick cornerback Johnathan Joseph, and the Texans eventually gave him $48.75 million over five years to bolster their secondary, it was clear that the team would make a concerted effort to keep cornerback Leon Hall.

(Even if the Bengals wanted him back, it's not clear Joseph would've returned. In July, ESPN's John Clayton said Joseph "would leave Cincinnati for a dollar more than the Bengals are offering.")

That's exactly what happened Friday. 

Earlier in the week, the team traded for cornerback Kelly Jennings, a former Seahawks first-rounder, and now the Bengals have extended Hall, one of the best players on the team. It's a four-year, $39-million contract extension that will keep him in Cincy through 2015, according to ESPN.

CBSSports.com's Rapid Reporter Paul Dehner adds that the deal includes $14.1 million guarantees (his 2011 salary increases to $5.1 million from $3 million, and he gets a $9 million roster bonus), and that extending Hall was on the radar before Joseph left for Houston. ESPN adds that he's expected to receive another $5 million roster bonus March 1.  

Dehner writes that "Hall, 26, has more interceptions (18) than any player his age or younger except the Jets' Antonio Cromartie, also 26 with 18 interceptions. In fact, only 10 active players younger than 30 have more picks than the Bengals corner." He's now tasked with leading a defense that must keep the Bengals in games while the offense finds its way with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton under center. 

In addition to the Jennings trade and the Hall extension, the Bengals last week traded for safety Taylor Mays, who had fallen out of favor in San Francisco after just one season. On Wednesday, the team also extended left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

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Posted on: August 19, 2011 5:43 pm
 

Bengals decline to pick up Andre Smith's option

SmithPosted by Josh Katzowitz

While the news
that the Bills had release 2009 first-round pick Aaron Maybin automatically came with the analysis that Buffalo had made a bad pick and that Maybin was one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory, not too much has been said lately about Bengals T Andre Smith.

You know, the guy who was picked five spots in front of Maybin.

And perhaps Smith hasn’t been quite as terrible as Maybin, who still hasn’t recorded a sack in his career. But Smith has been a major disappointment for Cincinnati. And that’s why it’s not a surprise to read the news from the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Joe Reedy that the Bengals have decided not to pick up the option on Smith’s rookie contract.
 
The option would have extended Smith’s four-year contract by two years, and the team would have owed him more than $17 million. Instead, the contract will now end after the 2012 season.

After the Bengals made him the No. 6 pick in the 2009 draft, Smith got $21 million guaranteed, and almost immediately, he began his slide to irrelevance. He held out in 2009, and then almost immediately injured himself in practice. Then, he got overweight again (let’s face it: he’s perpetually been overweight) and hurt himself again last year.

Andre Smith's Journey
In all, Smith has made just four starts in his career (and has played in just 13 of 32 possible games), and he’s let a less-talented player named Dennis Roland continuously beat him out for a starting job. And while Smith played LT at Alabama and was expected perhaps to take over that position in the NFL, there’s no chance, barring injury, Smith could beat out Andrew Whitworth these days.

Smith has been better this year so far in the preseason, but as Reedy points out, the decision not to extend the contract has nothing to do with the past three weeks.

Instead, it’s all about his performance (or non-performance) during the first two years of his career.

“After several conversations it was decided it would not be picked up now, but both sides are optimistic about the future,” Jimmy Gould, Smith’s co-agent, told the Enquirer. “He’s doing well and we’re encouraged.”

That could be, but the chances of Smith playing in a Bengals uniform in 2013 have grown slimmer with this news. Then, like Maybin with the Jets, Smith might have to find a new location where he can rejuvenate his career.

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Posted on: August 18, 2011 5:33 pm
 

Owners haven't forgotten about 18-game schedule

BisciottiPosted by Josh Katzowitz

In case you thought the owners were just going to forget about a proposed 18-game schedule simply because the players successfully tabled that discussion from the recently-signed CBA, that doesn’t mean the issue still isn’t on at least one owner’s mind (and probably on the mind of every owner and commissioner Roger Goodell).

"I think it became such a flashpoint, that our negotiating team figured that it wasn't worth pushing," said Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, via the Carroll County Times. "What we did as a show of faith was to go from what we had as a unilateral opportunity to impose 18 games in the old CBA, we agreed to let it become a negotiating point with the union going forward. Nobody likes things being forced on them, and the fact that the old CBA made it clear that we could impose it on them, I think that it kind of made them angrier that they didn't feel like they were getting heard.

"We felt that it was in our players' best interests to leave it out of this fight and open it up for negotiation a year or two from now and see what the additional revenue would be so that they're making a decision with eyes wide open."

As CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge pointed out last month, an 18-game schedule could begin by 2013 if the players agreed to it. Even if it seems like hardly anybody, but the NFL, is interested in pursuing it or watching it.

Obviously, this is an issue that has been hovering over the labor negotiations for the past few years, and the players were adamant about not getting a new schedule included in the latest CBA. Here was my interview with Bengals T Andrew Whitworth way back in June 2010 about this very subject:

CBSSports.com: Lots of talk today and yesterday about the 18-game schedule. What are your thoughts?

Andrew Whitworth: We want to do anything to make the game better for the fans. If an 18-game schedule will do that, that would be great. But there’s also some things player-wise and health-wise that might be an issue. We feel like if we’re going to have to do that, there has to be some things that change as far as the offseason and training camp.

CBS: Are you talking about just the offseason stuff, or are you also talking about increased health care?

AW: You have to do one of two things; you have to improve the situation now with improving the OTAs or during the season where there’s less contact or you’ve got to attack the health-care issue and give the guys better health care when they’re done. Right now, with most players, even if they play 15 years, they only have -- at the most -- five year of health care. That’s kind of ridiculous what guys go through.

CBS: Do you think the 18-game schedule will happen?

AW: I think the owners definitely want it. I know they’ve prepared for it in their future schedules from what I’ve seen. It’s something they’ll go forward with. But there has to be other things that improve for that to happen.


In the new CBA, the owners gave the players health care for life, and they’ve lessened the offseason workout schedule as well, all in the name of player health. So, it’s not like the players can say the owners don’t care about the well-being of their employees (they even changed the kickoff rules!).

But at some point, it seems inevitable that an 18-game schedule will be part of the NFL season. Remember, Colts president Bill Polian called an 18-game season “fait accompli.” But, like Judge points out, we still can’t figure out how the league can claim to care so much about player safety and then add two more games to the schedule. It doesn’t make sense.

Unless, we’re discussing what the NFL really cares about: money. Then, it makes all the sense in the world.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 11:32 pm
 

Would Andre Smith be better off as a guard?

A. Smith (Getty) Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Bengals OT Andre Smith is only the latest first-round draft bust selected by an organization known pretty well for its first-round draft busts.

Cincinnati selected Smith No. 6 in the 2009 draft, and despite his awful decision to run the 40 at his Pro Day without his shirt, the Bengals paid him a fortune to be the left tackle of the future.

That obviously hasn’t happened, as former G Andrew Whitworth holds down that position in Cincinnati (and despite a lack of Pro Bowl recognition, does a pretty darn good job of it).

So, what to do about Smith, who signed a six-year, $42 million deal at the beginning of his career (with $21 million guaranteed)? After all, he’s perpetually overweight, and he’s perpetually hurting with injuries (the two aren’t necessarily independent of each other). He’s only made five career starts, and for most of his career, he’s been behind Dennis Roland, a much-less talented but harder-working giant of a man.

ESPN.com’s
James Walker floats an interesting idea.

According to Walker, the Bengals coaches are discussing the idea of making Smith a guard instead of a tackle. As Walker writes, “perhaps a move inside could help jump-start Smith's career. He's never had the prototypical body for an offensive tackle. His strength is his girth, not his feet or ability to move quickly in space. Therefore, his weaknesses won't be exposed as much at guard.”

It’s maybe not a bad idea.

But, even so, you have to question the Bengals scouting and drafting skills to move their future left tackle inside to a guard position. Well, unless, you’re owner Mike Brown – then, you cite an obscure stat about how your draft days are relatively successful and go merrily on your way.

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Posted on: February 19, 2011 11:57 am
 

Whitworth not surprised by Palmer's request

Posted by Andy Benoit

Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth says, for his own “selfish reasons” he would love for Carson Palmer to remain, but he understands his quarterback has his own reasons for requesting a trade. In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Whitworth was asked if he was surprised by Palmer’s trade demand:

“No, not really. I knew he was really frustrated and knew it had been a tough year for him. It had to be. He took a lot of blame for a lot of things that probably weren’t his (fault) and things that for sure weren’t his fault. That’s the nature of a quarterback but I think in a year in which he was so excited about the potential of our team and for everything to go so badly was tough on him.

Then it didn’t help that there were – and you say Cincinnati fans but the people who do stuff like they did to him aren’t real fans. You’ve got your real fans that will love and support you no matter what but having stuff thrown in his yard and stuff like that, just stuff that is uncalled for. There is stuff like that I’m sure hurt him and put him in a place where he’s not just hurt but worried about his family and people coming to his house. You worry about all that for him but in the end I can feel his frustrations so I wasn’t exactly surprised but I was concerned.”

For what it’s worth, Whitworth is coming off a career year. If Palmer does wind up staying in Cincy, he’ll at least have a blindside protector he can trust.


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Posted on: December 29, 2010 12:33 pm
 

Hot Routes 12.29.10: Doing good deeds



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

- Ever wonder what happens to all the pink wristbands, gloves, cleats and towels that NFL players use during the month of October to raise awareness about breast cancer? The answer is, they’re auctioned off as part of the league’s A Crucial Catch breast cancer awareness campaign. On Tuesday, the NFL announced that the program raised more than $1 million for the American Cancer Society.

- It wouldn’t be surprising if all Bengals fans wanted to take their team to court for the way it’s played this season. One person actually is, though for alleged injuries. My man, Kimball Perry, writing for the Cincinnati Enquirer, details the lawsuit filed by Rebecca Dunn for injuries suffered in the stands during a 2009 contest.

- Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio thinks Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has done a damn good job this season.

- The Buccaneers coaching staff has to feel a little unsettled. That’s because most of the assistants don’t have a contract for next season. Blame the potential 2011 lockout.

-  Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth, snubbed for the Pro Bowl despite winning the fan vote, can’t help but wonder if where a player was selected in the NFL Draft has an impact on his Pro Bowl status, even many years later.

- It seems unlikely Texans WR Andre Johnson will play in the Pro Bowl. Maybe Whitworth can take his spot at wide receiver.

- The Green Bay Press Gazette doesn’t think Packers T Chad Clifton and CB Charles Woodson should have been given Pro Bowl berths.

- Forbes.com writes Redskins owner Daniel Snyder should use a potential lockout as a chance to do some spring cleaning. And hire Bill Parcells.

- The San Diego Union Tribune thinks the Chargers should re-sign WR Vincent Jackson. That would probably be a popular sentiment in San Diego.

- What happened to Cardinals WR Steve Breaston, why isn’t he playing and what is his future in Arizona?

- David Garrard will have surgery on his finger Thursday and won't play in Jacksonville's game Sunday.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com