The Jacksonville Jaguars run defense dominated Pittsburgh on Monday Night. In that game, Pittsburgh had a total of 26 yards rushing, an all-time low for the Bill Cowher era. And on top of that, the Jaguars didn't give up one rushing first down.
Jacksonville has a history of being stingy against the run. Statistically, they allowed a league-low four rushing touchdowns in 2005 and have yielded only 107 runs of 10 yards or longer, tied for third fewest in the league over the past three years. Defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson are critical to that success.
Stroud and Henderson are two Pro Bowlers with a simple mission each game -- clog up space and occupy at least three to four guys, thereby freeing their athletic linebackers to make plays. Size-wise these two are monsters; Stroud is 6-foot-6, 312 pounds and Henderson is 6-foot-7, 325 pounds. They especially present a huge dilemma for opposing offensive line coaches who must design blocking schemes to slow down the massive DTs.
Straight-up, RG Jake Scott will block Marcus Stroud and LG Dylan Gandy handles John Henderson -- unless Ryan Lilja makes a rapid return to the starting lineup after just returning to practice this week. The next question is what to do with center Jeff Saturday? Do you have him help Scott with Stroud or Gandy/Lilja on Henderson, knowing whatever you decide leaves one of the OGs in a one-on-one situation? In the end, situations and whoever seems to be struggling the most as the game progresses will dictate who Saturday helps most often.
Since Marcus Stroud is battling a sore ankle and isn't 100 percent, I think Indianapolis may opt to focus more double-teams and attention toward John Henderson. So I'm going to breakdown the RG Jake Scott vs. DT Marcus Stroud matchup. On a paper this is not a good matchup for Scott. He handles speed better than strength -- and Stroud has a lot of strength.
Jake Scott is tall athletic offensive lineman with very good feet and in-line quickness. He gets off the snap well and into defenders quickly. He shows solid lateral mobility and does a nice job sliding his feet to protect his edges against quick DTs. His overall play strength is still his biggest weakness. He will sometimes just get manhandled at the point of attack. If Stroud is having success pushing Scott around, then the problems are twofold — it shuts down the between-the-tackles run game and allows the Jaguars to get consistent quarterback pressure up the middle.
Marcus Stroud is a beast. He has all the attributes; size, strength, and quickness. It's no wonder he has been to three straight pro bowls. Stroud's excellent off the snap first step allows him to get his massive frame into blockers quickly. By doing that he can use his power to drive blockers back and push lineman around. Also because of his upper body strength and size, he will consistently hold-up at the point of attack against double teams
For a player his size, Stroud is surprisingly quick and nimble on his feet. With his quickness, he is able to shoot gaps, shed blocks, get on the edges and put pressure on the middle of a defense. Along with his strength and speed, Stroud also has the flexibility to split double-team blocks.
Although Stroud and Henderson usually create headaches for whoever attempts to run the ball against Jacksonville, you just can't abandon it. The Colts did have success running against the Jaguars in Week 2 last year, gaining nearly 150 yards on the ground. The key is to make Stroud and Henderson move laterally and run upfield as much as possible. So expect to see plenty of stretch plays and counters out of the Colts.
Jacksonville won't do much blitzing because they depend on their front four to get pressure and clog up the middle. Stroud isn't going to get a lot of sacks; he had only one last season. But his ability to create pressure up the middle and command double-teams produces plenty of sack opportunities for Jacksonville's defensive ends. So its vitally important that Jake Scott holds up at the point of attack.
Colts Key Matchup: Scott vs Stroud
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