Posted: 3:50 p.m.
With the Bengals and Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson finally talking contract again, the club also snuck a peak at two potential long-term linemen in the 44-31 win.
And with Bengals Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Muñoz calling the game on local TV and former all-purpose lineman Dave Lapham doing it on radio after they met with mentor Jim McNally, rookie Andrew Whitworth and Stacy Andrews held their own.
In fact, after watching Whitworth blank Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel on sacks, Whitworth, "more than held his own I would say," Lapham said.
Indications are that left tackle Levi Jones, who sprained his ankle against Washington in the opener, and Anderson, fighting hamstring soreness, should be ready for the Aug. 28 game and quarterback Carson Palmer's return.
So Whitworth, the second-rounder from LSU who started at left and opposite him Andrews, the third-year track man from Mississippi got the nods Friday night against the Bills without an NFL regular-season start between them.
And it wasn't a jailbreak. The duo aren't there yet and it could have been prettier on some pressures, but their guys didn't get a sack and Whitworth kept Schobel and his 46.5 sacks over the last five seasons away from quarterback Anthony Wright. When Wright did get sacked, it came one time from the right inside by tackle Larry Tripplett.
"I thought both of them held up well," said Muñoz, who beamed the game back to Cincinnati with play-by-play man Paul Keels, the voice of Ohio State. "I like what I've seen from Andrew so far. It's funny, you take a look at him (6-7, 340 pounds) and you're not sure he's going to be able to get to some blocks, but he does."
Muñoz found it a little bit easier to watch Whitworth because he was on the open side and Andrews had, several times, a tight end lined up with him. But Muñoz also thought the inexperienced Andrews is coming along in his three-year project after playing just 70 snaps of football in college.
"They're coming out of the same conference, and if you gave Stacy 52 straight games like Andrew had, well, of course he'd be a lot farther along," Muñoz said. "But for not having much experience, I thought they played pretty well."
Muñoz and Lapham both played for McNally, the offensive line guru heading to his 27th season in the NFL. It's hard to believe that McNally, whose first 15 years were with the Bengals, has been gone from Cincinnati almost as long as long as he was here. McNally, 63, is heading into his third season working in his native Buffalo under his second Bills head coach, former Bengals defensive back Dick Jauron.
But his greatest years were here, and while Lapham busied himself with his postgame duties on the Bengals radio network, McNally brought Muñoz into the Bills locker room to meet his players.
As Lapham pieced the game together in his head, he also thought Whitworth and Andrews, working against a smallish, quick guy like Schobel in Chris Kelsay, came out of it fine. Like Muñoz, Lapham had heard the criticism that Whitworth lacked left tackle feet in the NFL, even though the man had faced plenty of speed rushers in the SEC and left Baton Rouge with 21 straight games of not giving up a sack.
Lapham is starting to see how. Schobel, a 270-pounder who has led the Bills in sacks all five seasons he's played, is supposed to be the kind of pro rusher that is going to give Whitworth problems.
"Whitworth has a master's degree in football geometry," Lapham said. "He knows the angles. He's not the quickest-footed guy. But he knows where the points intersect. You take a guy like Schobel who is an elite rusher and he more than held his own I would say."
Whitworth, the first rookie to play both guard and tackle in coach Paul Alexander's 12 seasons with the Bengals, has also impressed Muñoz playing inside. ("He's smart and got the size," he said.) If Anderson and left guard Eric Steinbach aren't re-signed after this season, some have penciled in Whitworth at right tackle and Andrews at left guard, and some have done it vice versa.
But maybe that won't happen.
Indications are the Bengals still would like to give a three-year extension to Anderson, scheduled to make $5 million this season before he becomes a free agent and turns 32 next offseason. According to ESPN.com, Anderson is looking for a five -year deal, but Bolar indicated last week that even though the sides had yet to talk specific numbers at that point that he felt it was a good step that everybody is back at the table.
After giving Jones $16.3 million in guarantees and $21 million in the first three years last month in a six-year extension, it's believed the Bengals are pretty much up against the salary cap. But they can always drop Anderson's cap figure for 2006 by pro-rating bonus money.