With the addition of Elvis Dumervil, Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth is more convinced than ever that the Super Bowl champion Ravens are going to be just as dangerous in 2013. But he also sees the Bengals challenging with a different type of roster than Baltimore as free agency hit two weeks old Tuesday.
"I think with them and the changes they've had to make are because they've got more of an older team," Whitworth said. "I think we have a much younger team and it's more about keeping it together and I think we've done that so far."
Whitworth has high regard for the 5-11, 260-pound Dumervil's strength and leverage in racking up 63.5 sacks in six seasons and says he makes the Ravens better rushing the passer bookending with Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs.
"They're better rushing the passer now because they've got two strong physical guys that can push the pocket," Whitworth said. "(Paul) Kruger was a good rusher, but he was more of traditional guy. Now they have two perennial sack leaders across from each other. Dumervil has been great since he got in the league. He was injured for just that one season and had to recover from (a torn pectoral muscle), which is a tough injury for a pass rusher."
Dumervil had one of the five sacks against the Bengals in Denver's 31-23 win at Paul Brown Stadium last season as he and Von Miller (three sacks) were able to get loose with a 17-3 lead. But Whitworth, who has never allowed a career sack to Suggs, didn't allow one to Dumervil that day and says one of the holding penalties called against him working against Dumervil was later ruled wrong by the NFL.
Some of those five were coverage sacks and others were stunts aimed at the right side of the line, but the Bengals protection rebounded in the ensuing four-game winning streak. That's when they allowed five sacks total while Whitworth (No. 1) and Smith (No. 19) were on their way to being judged one of the NFL's top pass-protecting tandems in the league by Pro Football Focus.
"(Denver) would switch sides with those two guys during the game, so I could see Baltimore doing that," Whitworth said. "They're going to be good. They've got a good offense. Their pass rush just got better. We still have to prove we can beat them on a consistent level."
MIKE AND MARVIN: Falcons head coach Mike Smith considers Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis one of his mentors and they are still close enough that they talk a couple of times a month. But during last week's NFL meetings in Arizona, it was Smith who was able impart some advice about getting over the hump in the playoffs.
Pretty simple, actually.
"You have to make those plays. It comes down to those handful of plays. That's the difference," Smith said.
Smith should know. He won his first postseason game in four tries last season on the way to the NFC title game as Lewis looks to stop his playoff skein at 0-4. Smith gestured to the NFL 2012 stats in his notebook.
"About 54 percent of the games were decided by one score or less. Around 22 percent three points or less," Smith said. "Winning in the second season is not easy. It's hard to win in the regular season, but it's even more difficult in the second season. It comes down to a handful of plays. Most games in the NFL are going to come down to a handful of plays."
No one has to tell Bengals fans. If quarterback
"We talk about being a relevant team to our guys, about being a consistent team," Smith said. "When you have consistency, you become a relevant team at the end of the season. You're going to enhance your chances of having long-term success."
Smith, the Ravens defensive line coach during part of Lewis's tenure as the Ravens defensive coordinator, expressed amazement at the growing stat. Only New England's Bill Belichick has been with one team longer than Lewis's 11 seasons with the Bengals.
"It speaks to Marvin's ability as not only as a coach, but as a manager," Smith said. "Because as a coach you have to manage so many things.
"What Marvin does better than anyone, he's very inclusive in the decision-making process. At least when I worked with him in Baltimore … he made everyone part of the process. He was going to call the game on Sunday, but the entire coaching staff and even some of the players (contributed). I learned a lot from Marvin in terms of, you have to let players be part of the process putting together the game plan."