In the Trenches: Mathis vs. Stinchcomb

Both Indianapolis and New Orleans have offensive lines that have flown under the radar much of the season. Both are very workmanlike, lunch pail-type of units that keep their quarterback clean. The Colts have led the league in fewest sacks allowed in four of the past six seasons, while Saints quarterback Drew Brees was sacked only 20 times during 534 drop backs this season.

For New Orleans, guard Jahri Evans and right tackle Jonathan Stinchcomb were selected to the Pro Bowl, while center Jonathan Goodwin was a first alternate.

Being named to the Pro Bowl was quite a step for offensive tackle Jonathan Stinchcomb. Drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft, Stinchcomb spent the most part of his first three NFL seasons either injured or inactive, which caused many to wonder if this big fellow was a bust.

Everything changed in 2006: namely, Stinchcomb finally was fully healthy, and with that won the starting right tackle job in training camp. He has not missed a start in the four seasons since.

Stinchcomb shows decent quickness and balance in pass protection. He does a nice job jumping outside quickly, setting and sliding. He wants to get you wide and let his upper body do the work. He will have trouble against pass-rushers with good hands and a variety of moves. He's susceptible to inside counters and spin moves, mainly because he is so cognizant of the edge.

The key is keeping him off balance. Stinchcomb looked fairly mediocre in the NFC Championship game. DE Ray Edwards gave him all kinds of headaches off the edge.

An analyst with Canal Street Chronicles breaks it down: "Stinchcomb handled himself fine on running plays, but struggled mightily on passing downs. Edwards was beating him off the edge repeatedly, and even managed a sack. A number of times Edwards was very close to making more plays if not for Brees' uncanny pocket awareness."

That film of Ray Edwards and his success against Stinchcomb should have Colts DE Robert Mathis licking his chops. Saints All-Pro left tackle Jamaal Brown went down early in the season, which elevated second year tackle Jermon Bushrod into a starting role. As a result, New Orleans has had to focus more blocking schemes on providing extra help for the youngster Bushrod. That in turn has left Stinchcomb in plenty of one-on-one situations.

Will that be the case again this week, especially if Colts DE Dwight Freeney is not at 100 percent? That's a good question. If Freeney does give it a go, look for the Saints to test their tackles early and see what they can do without much blocking or chipping help. Saints head coach Sean Payton would love to give QB Drew Brees as many passing options as quickly as possible. If the Colts are having success getting to or hurrying Brees, look for the Saints to then adjust protection schemes.

What can we expect from Robert Mathis when he lines up across from Jon Stinchcomb? CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel writes: "[Mathis] is more Dwight Freeney than Freeney himself. He's smaller than Freeney. He's quicker than Freeney. And considering that he has more sacks (49) than Freeney (45) since 2005, he's more productive, too. Nothing against Freeney, whose availability for Super Bowl XLIV is in question because of an ankle injury. When he's healthy, he's unstoppable — and he could be Canton-bound. In eight seasons in the NFL, Freeney has 84 sacks and five Pro Bowls. Another three or four years like that, and he's a finalist for the Hall of Fame. He has been that good. But so has Mathis."

Doyel goes on to say it might not look like a fair fight on paper given that Mathis will be giving up nearly 80 pounds to Stinchcomb. He writes:

"[Mathis] is listed at 6-2, which is generous, and at 240 pounds he's nearly 30 pounds lighter than Freeney. The offensive tackles Mathis will most likely line up against in Super Bowl XLIV, Jermon Bushrod and Jon Stinchcomb, are fairly small for the position at 6-5, 315 pounds — but still they are each 75 pounds heavier than Mathis.

On paper it's not a fair fight. And it won't be on the field, either — Bushrod and Stinchcomb have no chance. They're too big. Too slow. Trying to block Mathis, for an NFL offensive tackle, would be like me or you trying to catch a cat. We may be bigger than the cat. We may be stronger than the cat. But we have no chance. That cat can move.

"I remember coming in as a rookie, lining up [in practice] the first time against Mathis, and I'm thinking, 'This will be pretty good. I'll get into him, and that'll work,'" said Colts left tackle Charlie Johnson. "But that's the thing — you can't get into him. He's too fast."

If Freeney is not 100 percent — which most expect to be the case — look for Indianapolis to move Mathis around and give him plenty of snaps across from Bushrod. Even if that happens, he should still line up across from Stinchcomb on plenty of downs. Stinchcomb is more of a technician than a driver or mauler, who would probably prefer going up against speed before power. The key for him will be not to let Mathis' speed get in his head.

The last thing he wants to do is overplay the speed rush off the edge by bouncing out and setting up too quickly. If that happens Mathis will beat him to the inside shoulder, lessen the big tackles strength and dictate balance. Stinchcomb needs to stay sound in his technique and not let his head mess with his feet.


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For New Orleans, guard Jahri Evans and right tackle Jonathan Stinchcomb were selected to the Pro Bowl, while center Jonathan Goodwin was a first alternate.

Being named to the Pro Bowl was quite a step for offensive tackle Jonathan Stinchcomb. Drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft, Stinchcomb spent the most part of his first three NFL seasons either injured or inactive, which caused many to wonder if this big fellow was a bust.

Everything changed in 2006: namely, Stinchcomb finally was fully healthy, and with that won the starting right tackle job in training camp. He has not missed a start in the four seasons since.

Stinchcomb shows decent quickness and balance in pass protection. He does a nice job jumping outside quickly, setting and sliding. He wants to get you wide and let his upper body do the work. He will have trouble against pass-rushers with good hands and a variety of moves. He's susceptible to inside counters and spin moves, mainly because he is so cognizant of the edge.

The key is keeping him off balance. Stinchcomb looked fairly mediocre in the NFC Championship game. DE Ray Edwards gave him all kinds of headaches off the edge.

An analyst with Canal Street Chronicles breaks it down: \"Stinchcomb handled himself fine on running plays, but struggled mightily on passing downs. Edwards was beating him off the edge repeatedly, and even managed a sack. A number of times Edwards was very close to making more plays if not for Brees' uncanny pocket awareness.\"

That film of Ray Edwards and his success against Stinchcomb should have Colts DE Robert Mathis licking his chops. Saints All-Pro left tackle Jamaal Brown went down early in the season, which elevated second year tackle Jermon Bushrod into a starting role. As a result, New Orleans has had to focus more blocking schemes on providing extra help for the youngster Bushrod. That in turn has left Stinchcomb in plenty of one-on-one situations.

Will that be the case again this week, especially if Colts DE Dwight Freeney is not at 100 percent? That's a good question. If Freeney does give it a go, look for the Saints to test their tackles early and see what they can do without much blocking or chipping help. Saints head coach Sean Payton would love to give QB Drew Brees as many passing options as quickly as possible. If the Colts are having success getting to or hurrying Brees, look for the Saints to then adjust protection schemes.

What can we expect from Robert Mathis when he lines up across from Jon Stinchcomb? CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel writes: \"[Mathis] is more Dwight Freeney than Freeney himself. He's smaller than Freeney. He's quicker than Freeney. And considering that he has more sacks (49) than Freeney (45) since 2005, he's more productive, too. Nothing against Freeney, whose availability for Super Bowl XLIV is in question because of an ankle injury. When he's healthy, he's unstoppable — and he could be Canton-bound. In eight seasons in the NFL, Freeney has 84 sacks and five Pro Bowls. Another three or four years like that, and he's a finalist for the Hall of Fame. He has been that good. But so has Mathis.\"

Doyel goes on to say it might not look like a fair fight on paper given that Mathis will be giving up nearly 80 pounds to Stinchcomb. He writes:

\"[Mathis] is listed at 6-2, which is generous, and at 240 pounds he's nearly 30 pounds lighter than Freeney. The offensive tackles Mathis will most likely line up against in Super Bowl XLIV, Jermon Bushrod and Jon Stinchcomb, are fairly small for the position at 6-5, 315 pounds — but still they are each 75 pounds heavier than Mathis.

On paper it's not a fair fight. And it won't be on the field, either — Bushrod and Stinchcomb have no chance. They're too big. Too slow. Trying to block Mathis, for an NFL offensive tackle, would be like me or you trying to catch a cat. We may be bigger than the cat. We may be stronger than the cat. But we have no chance. That cat can

\"I remember coming in as a rookie, lining up [in practice] the first time against Mathis, and I'm thinking, 'This will be pretty good. I'll get into him, and that'll work,'\" said Colts left tackle Charlie Johnson. \"But that's the thing — you can't get into him. He's too fast.\"

If Freeney is not 100 percent — which most expect to be the case — look for Indianapolis to move Mathis around and give him plenty of snaps across from Bushrod. Even if that happens, he should still line up across from Stinchcomb on plenty of downs. Stinchcomb is more of a technician than a driver or mauler, who would probably prefer going up against speed before power. The key for him will be not to let Mathis' speed get in his head.

The last thing he wants to do is overplay the speed rush off the edge by bouncing out and setting up too quickly. If that happens Mathis will beat him to the inside shoulder, lessen the big tackles strength and dictate balance. Stinchcomb needs to stay sound in his technique and not let his head mess with his feet.

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