Starting Offensive Tackles Charlie Johnson and Ryan Diem have not practiced this week. Neither is expected to play on Sunday. That will elevate back-up OTs Tony Ugoh and Michael Toudouze to the starting left and right tackle positions respectively. Does this mean Peyton Manning will be resigned to a drive or two of hand-offs and draws? What can expect from these two book-ends?
First off, this is neither player's first rodeo. Ugoh has stepped in at left tackle for Charlie Johnson twice this season. Michael Toudouze has spent most of his four NFL seasons on the practice squad. In fact, this year Toudouze was unemployed in Texas babysitting his sister's kids before the Colts called about a month ago.
Most Colts fans will remember Toudouze being forced into action in 2007 when an array of injuries in a game at San Diego elevated him from fourth-string tackle to protecting No. 18's blindside. He gave up an early sack to Shawne Merriman in that one, but settled in nicely for someone just off the practice squad.
Coming out of TCU in 2006, ESPN's Scouts Inc. summarized Toudouze like this: "he has impressive size and has shown enough short-area quickness, strength and toughness to warrant late-round consideration as a developmental offensive lineman prospect in 2006."
On Sunday, Toudouze will find himself lining up across from veteran defensive end Chris Kelsay on most downs. Kelsay is a bit undersized, but uses his high energy, athleticism and instincts to make up for it. He has great initial quickness.
How Toudouze responds and holds his own in the short area will be key. As a whole Kelsay is a good but not great pass rusher. His five sacks this year are the second best yearly total of his career.
On the other side, LT Tony Ugoh will have his cut out for him. RDE Aaron Schobel is the Buffalo's best edge rusher. He's garnered 11 sacks on the season and is coming off one of the best games of his career, a three-sack outing against Atlanta.
Schobel shows excellent speed off the corner. Ugoh has the quickness and athleticism to get the rusher off the edge. 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 compensate with his arms and upper body instead of his feet. This causes him to get off balance and out of position. So while he has the jump out skills to meet Schobel at the edge, he does not always use the proper footwork once there. That's usually how he gets beat. If Ugoh gets sloppy with his technique, Schobel will take advantage and it will be a long day for QB Curtis Painter.
Defensive end Ervin Baldwin is eager to get his first NFL sack. "Gotta get that first one," he said. "My dad keeps talking to me about how I got to get that first sack. "It don't matter how I'm out there, as long as I play and get the opportunity. If we're up by 20 or down by 20, you never know when it's your last play on the field."
In their 2008 draft preview, Sports Illustrated scouted Baldwin as "a prospect flying under the radar screen at the present time. He lacks the size to be an every-down player in the NFL, yet he has enough talent to get consideration as a pass-rush specialist."
LT Kirk Chambers will be the Buffalo Bill trying to keep Ervin Baldwin from his first career sack. Chambers has started on the right side in recent weeks, but injuries to starting left tackle Jonathan Scott and backup Andre Ramsey, have forced the move to the left side. Chambers is a big lumbering tackle, who uses his long arms and initial pop to win his individual battles within the trenches.
Chambers wants to engage early, lock on and seal off the edge. Baldwin should have some opportunities to beat Chambers with his athleticism and speed.
I talked about OG Richie Incognito in great detail back in Week 7 when he was a member of the St. Louis Rams. St. Louis, however, waived Incognito on December 15, two days after committing two 15-yard personal foul penalties and engaging in an intense verbal spat with head coach Steve Spagnuolo. The Buffalo Bills wasted no time picking Incognito off waivers on December 16.
Incognito has quite the reputation around the league. A few months ago, Sports Illustrated polled 296 NFL players and found Incognito to be the seventh-dirtiest player in the league. Expect an array of rotating Colts defensive tackles (Eric Foster/John Gill/Fili Moala) to line up across from Incognito. Incognito is an excellent run blocker. He has the size and power to maul smaller Colt interior defenders off the ball.
If Incognito is able to get his hands on and drive, it will be a long afternoon. So will be important to whoever is lining up across from Incognito shows the ability to use their speed and first step quickness to beat the 340-pound Incognito off the snap and not permit him to get his big mitts latched on.
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