AFC North News: All Division Preseason Offensive Tackles

Aug 16, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas (73) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Browns defeated the Packers 35-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

The All Division Preseason Team was chosen based on performance in 2011, projected success in 2012 and extraneous factors, such as potential, opportunity and overall talent. Positions are taken generally, meaning there won't necessarily be one right tackle and one left tackle, but there will be two offensive tackles.

The AFC North has improved quite a bit in terms of its passing offenses. What used to be considered a grind-it-out, smashmouth goup of teams now looks to become one of the better aerial assaulting divisions in football. A key component to that is its quarterbacks, and with it, the protection of those quarterbacks.

The AFC North has some pretty decent offensive tackles, but not quite the height of talent as some other divisions enjoy. The presence of one of the game's best anchors the unit, though.

OT Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns

Thomas is simply a phenomenal tackle in all areas of the game. Despite having next to no help to his right, Thomas handles his assignment without difficulty the vast majority of the time at a position where even a three percent rate of error is disastrous.

Thomas will again be relied upon heavily to protect Cleveland's fledgling passing offense, as rookie QB Brandon Weeden takes over for Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace.

OT Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals

Whitworth was arguably more impressive in 2011 than Thomas was, and took a big step forward in prominence around the league. Probably the most underrated aspect of then-rookie QB Andy Dalton's success was the level at which Whitworth performed in nearly every game. Any pressure Dalton took was generally off the guards (something the Bengals addressed wisely with the drafting of Kevin Zeitler), and Whitworth maintained a strong presence on the edge.

Honorable Mention
OT Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals

It certainly was a rough start to the career of former high-end draft pick Andre Smith. The 2011 season, though, showed he's finally coming into his own as an offensive linemen, putting together a very solid 2011 campaign. The big thing is how young he is, how injury-free he seems to be and the fact no one's writing any reports of weight concerns. His ceiling always was high, and it appears he's actually moving in that direction now.


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