Colts Key Matchup: Mathis vs Williams

Robert Mathis squares off against a familiar foe, Jacksonville offensive tackle Maurice Williams. But with Dwight Freeney questionable due to an injury, this matchup could become even more important to the Colts success. Greg Talmage provides his insight and analysis...

One matchup that will greatly be effected by the status of Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney is that of LE Robert Mathis vs. RT Maurice Williams. If Freeney is unable to go, then many of the double-teams and blocking stunts usually directed toward Freeney will be aimed at Robert Mathis instead. If Freeney does play, then Robert Mathis will have plenty of one-on-one opportunities against Williams.

Speed rushers with strength are the kind of DEs that give Maurice Williams fits, so Jacksonville will give him his fair share of help. The Jaguars, however, also know that it's a mistake to give too much attention to the outside. Last year in their Week 2 game at the RCA Dome, the Jaguars focused so much attention on the Colts edge rushers that they left their interior line vulnerable and as a result Montae Reagor was able to get 3 sacks.

Before this season, Mathis was more of a pass rush specialist who usually only saw action on passing downs. He played just 35% of the downs in 2005. Now, Mathis is no longer a situational guy, he's starter and an every-down DE.

Robert Mathis is a relentless high-motor player, who beats offensive tackles with his speed and spin move. His solid lean and ability to turn the corner puts extra pressure on the edge.

The key to slowing Mathis is to negate his speed with contact. Mathis' size and weight can be a disadvantage if opposing lineman are able to get their hands on him and can use their weight and leverage to dominate and control him at the line. He is not a quick shed player. So real road-graders will give him fits, especially when defending the run.

Maurice Williams is not a huge road-grader, but does illustrate a good punch and latches onto the defender well. He is a good overall athlete, who plays his position wisely. He lacks top technique, but takes a very smart approach to his angles and has solid ‘football" instincts. And while his foot quickness is solid enough to handle a wide rush, he sometimes overextends and will get beaten back to the inside.

So watch out for this closely on Sunday; see if after initial contact Mathis is able to use his top-line spin move to beat an overextended Williams inside. Another knock against Williams is that he pulls back quickly and absorbs too much in pass protection -- and as a result has trouble consistently anchoring against a bull rush. Mathis is more of a speed rusher than bull, but will show enough strength to push an unanchored OT back into his quarterback. It's just not something he can do consistently.

Williams has been a consistent component of the Jaguars offensive line at RT since 2001. He's started every game in 3 of 4 seasons he's been in Jacksonville. So Mathis and Williams are very familiar with each other. Mathis has three career sacks in 7 games against Jacksonville, a number he'll be looking to add to on Sunday.

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