AFC North Top 25: 18th-ranked player

The AFC North blog is continuing its series on the top 25 players in the division with No. 18:


Bengals offensive tackle

Why Whitworth is ranked 18th: Playing in the same division with the Browns' Joe Thomas often overshadows Whitworth's effectiveness. He was rated as the second-best pass blocking offensive tackle last season by Pro Football Focus (of course, Thomas was No. 1). Whitworth gave up 5.5 sacks in 2011, which was three more than his 2010 total.

There's a reason to believe Whitworth will play faster this year. He dropped 29 pounds this offseason by eating better and is down to 320 pounds, the lightest he's been since his sophomore season at LSU. This will help a lineman who will turn 31 by the end of the season. A strong voice in the locker room, Whitworth is just as important for the Bengals off the field as a team leader.