Guard Chester Pitts was quite the mainstay in Houston and only player to have started every game in Texans history, but an injury this season in Week 2 game against Tennessee ended his streak of 114 consecutive starts. Kasey Studdard, who had played behind Pitts for two years, was subsequently elevated into the starting lineup.
"Kasey plays the game on emotion and effort," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said after Pitts went down. "He fits with the group. There was no fear there [after Pitts' injury during the game] as far as where we were going or how we were going to do. Our guys expected him to do his job, and he did. I'm excited to see him play. He's earned the right to play."
Muir will try to exploit Texans' backup guard Kasey Studdard
Since that day, it has been a season of ups and downs for the new starting left guard. Following a Week 5 loss to Arizona, the Battle Red Blog stated, "early returns indicate that the drop off from Chester Pitts to Kasey Studdard is substantial". But just last week, Lance Zierlein of the Houston Chronicle said "The offensive line did a very nice job of blocking up front for Ryan Moats, and Chris Meyers and Kasey Studdard had their best games of the season by far."
Studdard is a hard-nosed player with quite a mean streak. He is more of a straight ahead mauler, who would rather get his hands into you and drive than use his average speed and foot quickness to pull outside the tackles. "This consistent, blue-collar guard has the experience and toughness to get the job done at the next level," CBS Sportline wrote before the 2007 draft.For a bit more background on Studdard, I highly recommend Ed Thompson's interview with Studdard following the 2007 draft.
Studdard will spend a lot of time on Sunday blocking another max effort guy in Colts DT Daniel Muir. Before we get to this particular matchup, it should be noted that Houston is a zone blocking offensive line. In their scheme offensive linemen work in tandem to block players in their zone, instead of having an assigned man to block.
Just like Studdard, Muir has been playing some of his best football in recent weeks. "Daniel Muir played the best game of his career against the Rams a week ago. He will need to continue playing at that level if he hopes to become a permanent fixture in the Colts starting defensive lineup," fellow ColtPower analyst Brett Mock wrote after the win in St. Louis two weeks ago.
Following last week's game, Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star noted in his weekly report card, "The defensive line hasn't missed a beat since Ed Johnson's departure, getting huge performances from Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson."
The Colts will need another performance like that this week, as Studdard is a fierce run blocker. Now, Studdard is not going to open wide holes by exploding into his man or knocking the defender back off the snap. Instead, he plays with sound upper body strength and hand placement, and uses his non-stop motor and mean streak to win individual battles.
Muir needs to hold his ground and play with leverage. If he does not have his hands locked on, Studdard can be overpowered and is susceptible to a good double move.
The fact that Colts DE Dwight Freeney has recorded a sack in each game this season is impressive. Scout.com Senior Analyst Ed Thompson goes even further into to stats to report it's more than just sacks for Freeney. Ed writes: "no one has been a more consistent pest to quarterbacks than the Colts' Dwight Freeney. With 14.5 knockdowns and 10.5 hurries, his combined total of 25 is the best mark in the NFL after eight weeks."
This week Freeney will be looking to extend that streak against Houston Texans LT Duane Brown. Brown is in his second year out of Virginia Tech. Houston drafted Duane in the first round of the 2008 draft with hopes that he would solidify their left tackle position for years to come.
It was a bumpy rookie season. As Battle Red blog notes, there is some familiarity between Freeney and Brown: "Last year, Freeney abused Brown for three sacks in two games. That means that roughly 30 percent of Freeney's sacks in 2008 came at the expense of Brown in his rookie season."
But, they were also quick to point out that Brown has rebounded so far this season with a solid sophomore campaign: "Brown has probably been the most improved player on the offense and a big reason that Matt Schaub has performed so well. Brown needs to continue to give Schaub the time he needs despite the history he has with Freeney."
Brown knows this week is a huge challenge: "Getting a good workout in and watching film getting a jump on Dwight Freeney and the Colts. Huge week," he wrote on his personal Twitter account Monday.
So after going up against him twice last season and watching film of Freeney this year, how does Brown breakdown the Colts defensive end? "He plays with great leverage," Brown said. "He's about 6-1, so he plays very low to the ground. It kind of gets it out of your comfort zone being down that low. He's very quick. He can stop on a dime, redirect and his spin move is known throughout the league. He's very tough out there. I'm studying as much as I can to try and get a key on when and what he might do something."Brown shows excellent initial quickness and body control. He has the foot quickness and reach step to get out and pick up your typical edge speed rusher. As we know, Freeney is much more than an edge speed rusher. His patented spin move is lethal. He can beat you with strength by turning his speed into power and will bull rush the tackle back into the pocket.
Brown is improving, but I still expect the Texans to employ plenty of double teams on Freeney and call plenty of max protect schemes. On the flip side, there will be some one-on-one calls too, as Houston wants to see just how improved their left tackle is.
In the short history of the franchise, consistent left tackle play has been virtually non existent. Might Duane Brown be putting an end to that? A solid game against one of the NFL's elite pass rushers might start making believers in Houston.
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