Ryan Diem versus Shawne Merrimann

It's another matchup that could only periodically based on the down and distance, but when they square off, Diem versus Merrimann could determine the outcome of some important plays on Sunday.

In his "Observations" article this week for ColtPower, Jerry Langton had this to say about Ryan Diem's performance last week against Jacksonville.

"Strangely, Ryan Diem, who had been playing like a man possessed this season, was caught with his pants down against Reggie Hayward and looked awful, at least for a few plays. My hope is that those whiffs were anomalies and that Diem will be straightened out this week when he faces Shawne Merriman, who's all about speed and quickness and could be handful or two." 

Jerry is right. Speed defensive ends have given Diem trouble at times this year, so his ability to handle Merriman's quickness will be the key to this matchup. 

In the early part of his first season, OLB Shawne Merriman demonstrated great potential as a perimeter pass rusher, but he seems to have hit a rookie wall of late and is no longer showing the same explosiveness off the edge. Still Merriman is one of those rare talents who has the ability to play away from the line as a strong-side linebacker, off the edge as a rush end or in a three-point stance as a down lineman. He excels as a pass-rusher because of his sudden off the line burst and awareness to recognize blocking schemes. He also has solid snap anticipation 

Merriman, however, lacks ideal size for an every-down defensive end. He relies too much on quickness to slip blocks in the open field and has some problems making the play once an offensive lineman locks on. 

The scouting report on Diem is that he is a much better run blocker than pass blocker, who will struggle in pass protection if he fails to latch-on and engulf his man. This has proven true, especially the past two weeks. Both Jacksonville's Reggie Hayward and Tennessee's Kyle Vanden Bosch gave Diem all he could handle in pass protection at times. Hayward was credited with two sacks against Indianapolis last Sunday. 

The Colts will love the Diem versus Merriman matchup in running situations. Just how often Merriman is on the line in those situations, however, remains to be seen. Diem is a big massive road grader in the run game. He gets adequate hand placement and uses his upper body well to maintain separation. He takes smart angles, plays with a good motor, and fights to sustain the block once in position. 

Diem's biggest challenge this weekend will be to prove that his recent inconsistencies in pass protection are truly an anomaly, especially before his quarterback starts to lose confidence in him and/or the Colts decide that he needs consistent help from a tight end.

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