BENGALS LT ANDREW WHITWORTH VS. COLTS RE DWIGHT FREENEY
Whitworth is the consummate brainy technician whose sneaky Pro Bowl-type athleticism is hidden by his 6-7, 335 pounds. Freeney is the first-ballot Hall of Fame athlete smart enough to diversify his game in his 10th season as he pulls within 1.5 sacks of 100 in his career.
Whitworth has given up just a handful of sacks since he switched to tackle full time in 2009, one of them to Freeney. And two more back before then, when Whitworth was a rookie in 2006. Now they are both in the elite and for the first time Whitworth gets Freeney outdoors at Paul Brown Stadium.
With the Colts run defense glacial and their secondary battered, the Bengals can't let Freeney and tag-team partner Robert Mathis bail them out with their patented sacks and strips that have produced 80 forced fumbles since 2002.
A Q-and-A about the matchup with long-time Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, a man that once played every offensive line spot in the same game during his 10-year Bengals career.
GH: How about these two guys?
DL: They're not only good players, but unbelievably intelligent football players the way they approach the game. Both Whit and Freeney are maximum effort guys. They never take plays off. They expend every bit of energy. One of Freeney's better new moves is a bull rush. You take a guy with that quickness and spin move and add a bull rush to his repertoire, whew. They talk about old man's strength. As you age you get stronger naturally. He's got some old man strength. Now he's filled out more. He hasn't grown. He's still barely six feet but he's stout. He might be the most explosive defensive lineman I've seen. His first step is unreal.
GH: He's 31. Has he lost anything?
DL: I don't see him losing any of that. He might not run a straight-line 40 quite as fast as he did when he was younger, but in a five-yard area where you have to play in the league, he's still as quick as a cat at five yards.
GH: What does Whit have to worry about?
DL: You have to trust your technique and that's what Whit is good about. He knows his technique is impeccable. He can't get ahead of himself. Freeney forces guys into sloppy footwork. He gets the guy playing too fast. Whit is patient. Don't fall into the trap of playing at too fast a pace. Don't think ahead of your body. Bottom line is trust your technique and Whit does that as well as anybody or better than anybody.
GH: As Orangemen, we know Jimmy Brown is the greatest offensive player to come out of Syracuse. Is Freeney the greatest defensive player to come out of the 'Cuse?
DL: If you look at his numbers, his sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries; you'd have to say he's the greatest defensive playmaker to come out of Syracuse. He's a playmaking fool.
GH: How do you think Whit is playing?
DL: Whit plays the way Whit does. You don't have to worry about what you're going to get from him on a snap-to-snap basis, and game-to-game basis. He's playing Whit ball.
GH: Is he a Pro Bowl player?
DL: I think he deserves to be in the conversation. He's got to be a real candidate. Hopefully he breaks through. I think he's deserving of it. The biggest thing is to get into the conversation. Now it's a matter of time. It's a question of when it's going to happen.