Colts Key Matchup: Saturday vs Salave'a

Colts center Jeff Saturday will play a key role in determining how well the Colts will fare in pass protection and in opening up long gain possibilities on the ground for Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai. Greg Talmage explains why...

The Washington Redskins got a big boost Thursday when Defensive Tackle Joe Salave'a was upgraded from questionable to probable. Both Salave'a and the other starting DT, Cornelius Griffin, missed the Skins' game last week against Tennessee. As a result, Washington was forced to start two rookies in the middle of their front four—Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston. And while they had decent performances, combining for nine tackles and a sack, they had trouble with helping slow the Titans' run game, which garnered 194 rushing yards last Sunday.

Having Salave'a back should bring some stability to the Redskins' run defense. He fills the nose tackle role in Gregg Williams' defense, using his 6-foot-3, 317-pound wide body to eat space in the middle by taking on both the center and weak-side or pulling guard. That leaves speed-rusher Andre Carter with a 1-on-1 match-up with the blindside tackle, who this week will be the Colts' Tarik Glenn. If Salave'a can tie-up both C Jeff Saturday and the left guard at the line, it also means a member of the Colts interior line is not getting up to the second level to create deeper holes and longer gains for the running backs.

This Sunday, it's going to be important for Jeff Saturday to get off the ball and into Salave'a quickly. The Redskins lineman is coming back from a calf injury that could cost him just a bit in stability and quickness providing Saturday with an additional edge in doing this consistently. If he's successful, this will free the left guard to either help Tarik Glenn with Andre Carter's inside moves or allow him free release to block upfield and get after a linebacker. Saturday doesn't possess the strength to consistently overpower Joe Salave'a. But he knows how to use his technique, smarts, and work ethic to hold his ground against almost any DT in the NFL.

In pass protection, Saturday is patient and effective -- especially against defensive linemen who have a high motor and multiple moves. He shows solid snap-to-set quickness as well as excellent vision and awareness. When run blocking, Saturday takes smart angles, and if left uncovered will use his quickness to get up and through to the second level to chip linebackers. It's Joe Salave'a's responsibility not to give him that opportunity.

Keep an eye on this matchup to see if Saturday can keep Salave'a out of that center-left guard gap all by himself. If he can do that consistently, the Colts running game should have a strong game to that side and Andre Carter should rarely get the opportunity to breathe down Peyton Manning's neck.

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