Colts Key Matchup: Johnson vs Vanden Bosch

If Ryan Diem can't play in Sunday's matchup against the Titans, rookie Charlie Johnson will be staring into the face of Pro Bowl defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch all afternoon. Greg Talmage takes a look at this intriguing matchup that provides the Colts rookie with an exciting opportunity.

As ColtPower reported Saturday evening, Indianapolis has waived guard Matt Ulrich and promoted offensive tackle Daniel Federkeil to the roster for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans.

This late move appears to indicate some internal concern over starting right tackle Ryan Diem's availability due to an abdomen injury. Colts head coach Tony Dungy stated Friday that Diem would be a game-time decision. If Diem can't play, rookie Charlie Johnson will plug in for him and take on one of the league's most talented pass rushers, Kyle Vanden Bosch.

So as an added bonus feature to our ColtPower readers, we are going to breakdown this potential match-up. If one looks at just the stat lines, you will notice a significant drop-off in the number of sacks Kyle Vanden Bosch has this year compared to a year ago at the same time. However, as Colt fans know from watching Dwight Freeney this year, you can't fully judge a defensive end's contribution based on that one stat. Paul Kuharsky, a reporter for The Tennessean talked about this very thing in an article last week.

"He's [Vanden Bosch] got four sacks this season. Last year at this time he had more than double that. But the caliber of his play has not changed one bit. He is as hard-working a player as the Titans have had since I started following this franchise in 1996."

The reporter goes on to point out that injuries at the other defensive end position and the five-game suspension of DT Albert Haynesworth have had a negative residual effect on Vanden Bosch because it allowed the opposition to concentrate more efforts on slowing him down. So as a result it's been harder for him to produce statistically.

Vanden Bosch is a tenacious, hungry, high motor guy who gets off the line fairly quickly. His speed and motor will give even the most seasoned offensive tackles headaches. Considering all of that and the fact that this could be OT Charlie Johnson's first professional start, expect to see Indianapolis employ an additional blocker or two on the right side to help the rookie out, especially on passing downs.

Although this would technically be Johnson's first start, he played most of last week's game after replacing RT Ryan Diem in the Colts' first offensive series. Last week, Johnson found himself matched-up against a pretty good speed rusher in Eagles DE Trent Cole. If Johnson performs against Vanden Bosch as well as he did Cole, the Colts will be just fine at that corner of the line again this week.

Because of his athleticism and excellent footwork, Johnson actually matches up better against speed rushers. Against speed, Johnson's quick feet allow him to get off the snap and promptly set up to pass block even in a small area. While just a tick over 300 pounds, he has surprising mobility. In the run game, he pulls well and can lead block on the outside, where he knows how latch-on and maintain blocks in space.

Coming into the draft, the knock on Johnson was that he was still a raw prospect who was a converted tight end who first played on the offensive line as a senior. Scouts thought this rawness led to poor technique, which caused Johnson to pass block upright too often and not punch aggressively enough in pass protection.

All of that though was before a man named Howard Mudd, the Colts' offensive line coach, got a hold of the sixth-round draft pick from Oklahoma State. This week we'll get the opportunity to see one of Mudd's young projects attempt to slow a Pro Bowl defensive end. It should be an exciting matchup to monitor. If Johnson stays disciplined and uses his technique and strengths, he should do just fine. But if he reverts back to some of the style from his collegiate days, like getting too upright too often and lacking an aggressive punch, Kyle Vanden Bosch will dominate him all afternoon.

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