In the Trenches: Colts vs. Titans

ColtPower analyst Greg Talmage takes a look at how the Colts defensive line stacks up against the Titans offensive line in this weekend's matchup. Get his take on the upcoming battle inside...

Sometimes the pundits may think they know what is going to happen in the NFL, but often it seems the exact opposite takes place. Take for example, this pregame analysis by the SportsNetwork prior to the Titans and Jaguars Week 1 game.

"It will likely be hard for Tennessee to run the ball against Jacksonville's big front line on Sunday. The Jags had the fourth-best rushing defense in 2006 and bring back mammoth tackles Marcus Stroud (21 tackles, 2 sacks) and John Henderson (51 tackles, 4 sacks)"

Now contrast that with the postgame write-up in USA Today.

 "[Titans Running Back Chris] Brown found gaping holes and huge cutback lanes, while making the Jags look either out of shape or out of position. Most of his big runs came at the expense of Pro Bowl tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, who were manhandled by Tennessee's offensive line."

So how exactly did the Titans have so much success running the ball against Jacksonville and their vaunted defensive tackles?

For one, Tennessee spread the Jaguars out by featuring a lot more three- and four-receiver sets than usual. As a result, the Jaguars were forced to play with five or six in the box. That made it easier for Chris Brown and LenDale White to hit creases and cut back off their linemen.

"Spreading them out allowed us to do some things," said Titans OG Jacob Bell following the game.


OT David Stewart
Doug Benc/Getty

The other key component was the play of the offensive line. Like Indianapolis, the Titans have one of the more-underrated units in the league, especially when it comes to run blocking. Tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart are maulers. Center Kevin Mawae is a crafty veteran and guards Benji Olson and Jacob Bell, a rising player at his spot, are exceptional in the run game.

So what's the gameplan this week? I think Tennessee likes the matchup and size difference, especially on the interior, so I expect plenty of between the tackles running. Olson, Mawae and Bell should be a handful for Colts' defensive tackles Ed Johnson and Raheem Brock.

To create those deeper holes, it will be incumbent upon center Kevin Mawae to slow rookie defensive tackle Ed Johnson's upfield push and then make his way to the second level to get a body on middle linebacker Gary Brackett. Given that the Colts use a one-gap system and penetrate upfield on the snap, the Titans will likely use more one-on-one blocking schemes instead of combo blocks.

Unlike the Jacksonville defensive tackles -- who present a challenge with their size and strength -- the Colts DTs do it with speed and a good upfield push. So keeping the Titans interior line on the line and not allowing them into the second level is another important aspect of this game.

So if you're the Colts, do you drop eight men in the box and make Vince Young's arm beat you? Possibly, but that's tough to do if Norm Chow is calling in a lot of 3 and 4 receiver sets. How the Colts find the right balance between putting plenty of bodies in the box to stop the run while still providing adequate coverage is one of the biggest challenges for the Indianapolis defense this week.


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