After last week's games, the New York Times' Fifth Down blog detailed just how well Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown has been playing: "Defensive tackle Tony Brown has been a monster the past few weeks. Brown has one of the quickest first steps in the league, and he plays with a motor that perhaps only the tireless veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch can match. He had two sacks at Houston and helped stuff Arizona's rising run game Sunday."
Brown is a quick, penetrating tackle. He hits gaps rapidly and beats opposing linemen with his explosiveness off the ball. Massive interior linemen will struggle Brown's speed in pass pro if they're unable to get into him quickly. For example, Brown gave Texans OG Kasey Studdard all he could handle on Monday Night Football two weeks back. Colts LG Ryan Lilja will likely be called upon to block Brown most of Sunday.
At 290 pounds, Lilja is in no way a massive interior lineman. He has the agility, initial quickness, and body control to counter Brown's interior speed and quick first step. The book would likely call these two marginally sized for their positions. And that's what makes this such an interesting trench battle for Sunday — it is strength on strength.
When Bill Polian was trying to decide between Ryan Lilja and Jake Scott, the Colts president was asked what Lilja brings to the Colts. "Toughness, athleticism. Great competitiveness. He can handle anybody that people put up against him," he said. "He's not the most imposing physically-looking guy, but he's a really good player."
So if Brown and Lilja are both able to use their initial quickness to cancel things out. What happens? Just because you meet him quickly at the point of attack does not mean you have Tony Brown beat.
Brown is a high-motor guy. You have to work to sustain your blocks against him. Another important element is hand placement. Brown does a good job of using his hands to control the point and dictate to blockers.
Lilja must not let his pad level get too high or that will allow Brown's hands to create a leverage advantage and as a result lead to Brown getting a nice push at the line of scrimmage.
With DT Jason Jones out Sunday, Brown is far and away the Titans best interior pass-rusher. So look for the Colts to use Jeff Saturday on some double-teams against Brown, especially early in hopes of wearing him down.
Kyle Vanden Bosch vs. Tony Ugoh:
Left tackle Charlie Johnson has not practiced all week and might be out Sunday with a foot injury. Ugoh replaced Johnson in the fourth quarter of last week's game in Houston. In Friday's injury report, Johnson was listed as questionable, while Ugoh was probable.
Ironically, Johnson has missed one game this year — Indianapolis' Week 5 contest in Nashville against Tennessee. That night, Ugoh replaced him. This week, it looks like déjà vu all other again, with Ugoh likely getting another start against the Titans.
In that game Ugoh held Vanden Bosch without a sack, but he did struggle mightily to contain the Titans defensive end. Vanden Bosch continually got pressure on Manning, especially in the first half. While Vanden Bosch came into the game without a sack through four contests, now things are changing and a rejuvenated Vanden Bosch has shown an increased ability to get to the quarterback in recent weeks. He has a sack in back-to-back games, three on the year.
So, with Ugoh's struggles the last time these two met and Vanden Bosch playing at an increased level now, this should be a mismatch on Sunday that Tennessee will want to exploit, right?
Maybe. They will definitely test it. But remember, Ugoh had trouble with Vanden Bosch mainly early in the game and seemed to adjust well. So some of those early problems can likely be attributed to rust and acclimation.
Bill Polian took it a step further when asked about Ugoh's troubles with Kyle Vanden Bosch on his radio show the Monday following the game in Nashville:
"When you watch the tape, you find out that he really did a very credible (EDITOR'S NOTE: The word Polian actually used was "creditable" a small but not insignificant difference) job," Polian said. "Over the course of a 60-play game, Tony Ugoh played pretty darned well. If you said to me, 'Is Tony Ugoh as good a player as D'Brickashaw Ferguson?' I'd probably say, 'Yes.' Is he as good a player as maybe some people who have higher profiles in the media? The answer is probably yes. To Tony's credit, when he had to step in and play Sunday night, he played pretty darned well. And as one of our Pro Scouts, Kevin Rogers, said many weeks ago as we were discussing he formation of our roster, 'There are a lot worse players than Tony Ugoh starting for other teams in this league. That's for sure.' Don't get down on him. We're not. It's a work in progress.
Ugoh has the quickness to the edge rusher to pick up the outside rusher. He is smart with his hands in pass protection and has the strength to control and steer rushers past the pocket. The problems start when Ugoh gets too high in his stance and tries to do too much with his upper body instead of moving his feet. So, while he has the jump out skills to meet the defender at the edge, he does not always use the proper footwork once there.
Kyle Vanden Bosch is not the type of defender an offensive tackle can afford to have shoddy technique against. If you give an inch, he'll take a mile. Vanden Bosch is more high-motor than elite outside speed rush. Even if Ugoh meets him at the edge and with the proper technique, he'll need to work to sustain his leverage and block. That can be tough for Ugoh because he is more of a finesse blocker.
Given Ugoh's draft status, expectations, and the fact that he's not yet lived up to those expectations, he can expect a heightened level of scrutiny and evaluation any time he takes to the field. If Ugoh is again having some problems with Vanden Bosch, the Colts will provide help from a tight end. All eyes will be on number on No. 67 on Sunday.
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