Mano A Mano: Justice vs. Henderson

The offensive line shuffle looks to continue for another week in Indianapolis. This week signs are pointing that Jeff Saturday will be back at center, but LT Tony Ugoh will likely be out with a sore groin. As a result, Charlie Johnson will likely move from left guard to left tackle and Steve Justice could be implemented at left guard.

So what's the assignment for the rookie in his first professional start? Exactly the same as his assignment last week when inserted into the game against Minnesota. Last week, it was a 350-pound defensive tackle named Kevin Williams. This week it's a 350-pound defensive tackle named John Henderson.

More specifically, his job will be to stay in between John Henderson and the ball. And more importantly, stay in between John Henderson and Peyton Manning.

Although Justice isn't starting for sure, Tony Dungy seemed to indicate that would be the case on Thursday.

John Henderson
Rick Stewart/Getty

"Right now, I think we would be leaning towards Steve because Jamey [Richard] still might play center," Dungy said.

Dungy also explained what Jacksonville does with their defensive line. "They're going to be in a four-man front and line up and see if you can move their big guys inside," he said. Henderson is the tough to move off the line of scrimmage. By using his strength, hands and awareness, Henderson does an excellent job holding his ground inside. He can also hold his own against double-teams — something he is seeing a lot more of with Marcus Stroud in Buffalo.

This offseason, the Jaguars traded away Stroud, their other twin tower at defensive tackle. That left Henderson as the marked man in the middle. Henderson remains the key cog in that Jaguars line but is coming off a down year in 2007 and has struggled so far in two games this year. writer Charlie Bernstein has an inkling into what the problem could be. "Anyone who believes that the Jaguars miss Marcus Stroud is sadly mistaken," he said this week. "Through a couple games, I honestly believe McDaniel and [Rob] Meier are playing at a higher level than John Henderson."

With opposing teams now able to focus their interior line double-teams on Henderson, its having an adverse effect on the talented tackle. Given that Henderson will likely to be in a double-team most of the afternoon that makes the other guard vs. tackle battle even more important, because LDT Rob Meier will be in plenty of one-on-one battles against Dan Federkeil. Meier tips the scales nearly 35-40 pounds lighter than Henderson. So that's a change, girth-wise, from Stroud.

What can we expect from Justice as he lines up across from another 350-plus pound DT? Here's how veteran scout Tom Marino broke down Justice in his scouting: "Justice has "good athletic ability, experience, intelligence, and toughness. He is a solid football player who could turn into a steady professional ... he is a little light to play at the NFL level, tipping the scales at only 290 pounds, and struggled against bigger men up the middle."

Justice had trouble at times anchoring down against Williams last week and as a result was pushed back on his heels too often. Expect plenty of double-teams on Henderson this week. Blocking Big John will likely be the focus of both Saturday and Justice all afternoon.

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