Houston lost both of its starting guards — Mike Brisiel and Chester Pitts — to injury early in the season. OG Chris White stepped in for Mike Brisiel to make the first start of his five-year career against the Bengals in Week 6.
Guard Kasey Studdard replaced Chester Pitts after Pitts went down in Week 2. Titans DT Tony Brown gave Studdard all he could handle last week. I'm curious to see how Studdard bounces back this week, but I broke down the Studdard-Daniel Muir matchup the last time these two teams met. Much of that still applies and can be read here.
This time around, I'm going to focus on the other "new" offensive guard, Chris White, and his matchups with rotating defensive tackles Antonio Johnson and Eric Foster. Until forced into action recently, White had been a career backup who had played in just 14 games in his five NFL years.
At 6--feet-2, 290 pounds, White is a bit undersized for the position. Big, massive tackles will give him fits, using their size advantage to drive the smaller White back in pass protection.
As Brad Keller points out, Houston has had its most success running between the tackles. In their Week 9 battle, Houston gained just 81 yards on the ground with a 3.1 yards-per-carry average. Houston will look to improve that number this weekend, so what happens between Johnson and White will play a big part in determining if that happens.
White is not going to blow you off the ball or overpower a defender, but he knows how to use angles to get leverage. Coming into the 2007 draft, Scout.com had Johnson rated as the 13th-best defensive tackle overall. "Johnson is a steady inside run stopper who is still developing his game," veteran NFL scout Tom Marino said about him leading up to that April. "He suffered from inconsistent play effort," added Marino.
Johnson can get a bit lazy with his technique and hand placement, and this is where White will seek to take advantage. For Johnson, the key will be to use his quick first step to not let White get leverage and hand placement advantage and then use his size and strength to overpower. If Johnson can do this, he should have some success getting into the backfield and disrupting plays.
Truthfully, a player of Johnson's size and speed would likely give White more headaches in pass pro. But Johnson's pass-rush moves are spotty at best. Eric Foster is the better pass rusher of the two, so it will be Foster trying to beat White on his way to the quarterback.
Fellow ColtPower analyst Brett Mock recently noted that Foster "has been developing into one of the Colts' best penetrating interior defensive linemen." If Foster can get pressure up the middle on Schaub and force the strong arm quarterback out of the pocket and off the spot, he can disrupt plays down the field without getting a sack.
LT Duane Brown vs. RE Raheem Brock:
It's official: DE Dwight Freeney has been ruled out for Sunday's game with an abdominal injury. He did not practice all week. And while I'm sure Texans LT Duane Brown was eager to redeem himself against Freeney, who had recorded 4 1/2 sacks in 3 games against Brown, I imagine he will not mind seeing someone other than Dwight Freeney lining up across from him on Sunday.
Nagging hip, abdominal and quad injuries had slowed Freeney in recent weeks. With Freeney out, DE/DT Raheem Brock will make the start at right end. Brock usually plays a little bit of both DT and DE during games. He sees quite a few snaps at defensive end, especially when the Colts face teams with strong rushing games. This week, defensive end will be his main focus.
Brock holds up well at the point of attack and does a nice job of not stay blocked after initial contact, that's what makes him a one of the Colts better run stoppers off the edge. He also does a nice job using his hands to keep blockers off his lower body, and makes the necessary adjustments to counter the opposition's blocking strategies against him.
Brock has spent so much time in recent years on the interior that his outside-in pass rush moves and stunts are his best moves. That's a good thing this week, because Duane Brown shows the foot quickness and reach step to get out and pick up a typical pure edge speed rusher.
Brown pops into his pass set very quickly, uses wingspan and long arms to ride edge rushers away from the pocket. His size, initial quickness and athletic ability are exactly what you want in a left tackle.
Brown struggles from time to time with his awareness and will not always adjust to line stunts and blitzes well. Look for Colts Defensive Line Coach John Teerlinck and Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer to test this. Raheem Brock should make a tougher matchup for Brown than a rotating in Josh Thomas for the simple fact that Brown has more pass rush moves in his arsenal.
Whether it is Raheem Brock or Josh Thomas lining up across from Brown on a particular down, do not expect Brown to get much or any blocking help on Sunday. With Freeney out, look for the Texans to actually shift chips calls and tight-end blocking help to their right side in an attempt to help RT Eric Winston with Colts LE Robert Mathis.
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