If Anthony Collis gets the call at left tackle in Sunday's opener in Chicago (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), former Bengals offensive lineman Dave Lapham thinks Collins's next call should be to another former Bengal.
Lapham has in mind Willie Anderson, the franchise's greatest right tackle. In his 11th season during 2006, Anderson blanked the great Julius Peppers in his prime in a win over the Panthers at Paul Brown Stadium. Now at 33 years of age, Peppers is poised in his 12th season on the other side of the line and is looking to go to his fourth Pro Bowl in his fourth season with the Bears. His 111.5 career sacks are second only to Jared Allen's 117 since Peppers came into the league 11 years ago, but none came that day against Anderson.
"I'd call Willie and ask him, 'What were you thinking that day?' " says Lapham, the Bengals radio analyst who called that game. "I don't think the tape is too old. Take a look at the technique Willie used. Willie's like a walking encyclopedia."
It's a great testament to Collins that the Bengals may be thisclose to starting their season without Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth and Bengaldom has stayed calm and peaceful. Whitworth is far from calm because he's so anxious to play ("I'm about ready to string somebody up"), but he's steady about Collins.
"I'll be fully confident if it comes upon him because he's a guy that can do it and can do it anywhere else," Whitworth said Wednesday, before going out to practice but not participating. "He'd be starting anywhere else in the league if he had the opportunity to."
This is tearing up Whitworth. This is the Bengals de facto offensive captain who leads the Bengals with 67 straight starts. This is the guy who arrived in the NFL with 52 starts at LSU, second-most in NCAA Division I history. This is a guy who mused Wednesday, "if it comes down that I can't play Sunday, this is the first critical game I've ever missed. I've been a guy that's always been out there."
Whitworth thought the knee he had surgically repaired was ready to go at the start of training camp, but it "kind of had a re-injury and we're getting it back and everything is fine. It’s just getting it healthy enough to be ready to go."
He says he'll play again this year, but nobody seems to know when. While he's torn up inside, he's proud of and excited for Collins, a guy with whom he and his wife are extremely close.
Whitworth has to laugh at the recently-completed Hard Knocks series, where one of the storylines was first-round pick
Why, Melissa Whitworth was caught wondering during the show, would he ever come stay at a place where there were three children not yet potty trained?
But before kids, there was and still is Collins.
"They made a big deal about Eifert, but it all started with AC," Whitworth said. "He was the guy that when he got drafted that we brought over and fed and hung out with. That's how our relationship started and it's stayed. He and Melissa are really close. We've been through everything he's been through here. He's a guy we couldn't be more proud of. Shoot, I'm excited for him."
It hasn't been an easy road for Collins here since he came out of Kansas in the fourth round in 2008, two years behind Whitworth. Here's a guy that didn't play football until his senior year in high school and is basketball athletic.
"He's had to find his way; we all have in different ways," Whitworth said. "He's matured and he's really a great kid. He's been nothing but tremendous whenever he's had to play for Andre (Smith) or me throughout his career."
Teammates on both sides of the ball believe Collins could be a starter on most NFL teams. He hasn't started at left tackle since he filled in for Levi Jones the last six games of his rookie season, and he's started 12 games since at right tackle, including seven of the first eight games of the 2009 AFC North run. And with Whitworth and Smith out of this year's spring ball, Collins jumped back and forth all May and June.
"I think Collins is athletic enough to do a pretty good job," Lapham says. "The test will be when Peppers decides to try to bull rush and what kind of success he'll have bulling him. I think AC's feet are pretty good. (Peppers) still has great hands, quick hands. He still has some moves to him. He's one of the best ever."
But Collins has some moves, too.
"I think Peppers is going to be surprised at how AC can move out there," Lapham says.