Key Matchup: Jeff Saturday vs Vince Wilfork

Greg Talmage shines the spotlight on a war that will be waged in the middle of the line of scrimmage between Colts center Jeff Saturday and Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfolk.

For an undrafted free-agent, who some did not think would ever amount to much of a pro football player, Jeff Saturday has had quite a career. Most scouts believed he lacked the size to succeed in the NFL. And while it's true that he won't overpower some opposing defensive linemen, Jeff Saturday knows how to use his brain and work ethic to win most trench battles.

Saturday is an extremely smart lineman. He handles all of Peyton Manning's pre-snap adjustments at the line with precision, and quickly gets his offensive line mates in their proper blocking schemes.

He shows solid snap-to-set quickness, excellent vision and awareness -- especially in pass protection. He is also patient and effective against double moves when pass protecting. In the running game, he takes sound angles, and when left uncovered will use his quickness to get up and through to the second level to chip linebackers.

This will be hard for him to do on Monday Night though, because Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork demands so much at-the-line attention. Getting away from Wilfork is a lot easier said than done.

For such a wide-bodied run stuffer, Vince Wilfork has surprising short-area pursuit skills and is much quicker than he looks. He is a natural two-gap tackle. He bounces off blocks well and will make a lot of plays between the tackles. However, on the negative side, he does not make many plays outside the tackle box. Sometimes the big guy just struggles to disengage.

He also has a solid feel for blocking angles, reads screens well and makes smart decisions at the point of attack. Wilfork is a ferocious tackler, who consistently finishes off plays. His pass rush skills are better than most defensive tackles his size. But he rarely sees the field when New England is in their nickel and dime sets. Nonetheless, his a burst off the snap can make him dangerous as a pass rusher.

In the Patriots' 3-4 defensive scheme, Wilfork is arguably the most important position player on the Patriots defensive front. It is his responsibility to use his behemoth frame to anchor the defensive line by controlling the middle and constantly occupying two offensive linemen (the center and a guard). If Saturday can successfully wall-off Wilfork from time to time and not permit the wide-bodied nose tackle from consuming two blockers, it will allow Colts' offensive guards to get upfield and create deeper holes for Edgerrin James. And that makes this matchup a key to the game as the Colts must establish a strong rushing attack to be successful in Foxboro.


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