Colts Key Matchup: Gandy vs Umenyiora

Dylan Gandy is expected to start at LG in place of the injured Ryan Lilja against the Giants. And while he'll primarily see rookie Barry Cofield staring across the line at him, he's going to see plenty of Giants Pro Bowl DE Osi Umenyiora. Greg Talmage breaks down this interesting matchup...

Left guard Dylan Gandy versus defensive end Osi Umenyiora is not an every-down matchup, but one that needs to be watched closely nonetheless. The Giants love to scheme Umenyiora on stunts and loops so the elusive defensive end can be matched up against nominally slower guards. Additionally, defensive coordinator Tim Lewis will simply move Umenyiora inside on some passing downs, presenting a straight-up Gandy/Umenyiora square-off.

Umenyiora is coming off a breakout season. In 2005, he finished with 70 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 pass defenses and was voted to his first Pro Bowl. Osi Umenyiora is a classic first-step, quick-off-the-edge-end. He has long arms and better than average upper body strength. But like I mentioned above, he is at his best in movement with slants and stunts.

For the Colts, Ryan Lilja was penciled in as the starting left guard when camp opened, but Lilja has missed the entire preseason thanks to a nagging knee injury. As a result, second-year lineman Dylan Gandy out of Texas Tech now finds himself starting -- something he did only twice in 2005. Gandy will have his hands full at times on Sunday night; Umenyiora is very quick to a gap and will on several occasions shoot the gap that is Gandy's responsibility.

Against a speed-demon like Umenyiora, it's important that Gandy reach the block quickly and consistently. Due to his own quickness and athletic ability, Gandy actually handles speed better than strength. So it'll be interesting to see how often the Giants stunt Umenyiora into this particular interior gap. Given Gandy's lack of extended game experience and their success doing this with Umenyiora last year, I do expect them to test him early and often.

Of the two Pro-bowl bookends the Giants feature—Umenyiora and Michael Strahan—it is Strahan who does the better job defending the run. Because of this, teams will attempt to wear Umenyiora down by consistently running right at him. If the Colts can get their running game working early to his side, it will help Gandy in pass protection as the game wears on.

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