Published: September 17th, 2011 | Tags: Playbook, Brandon Marshall, Brandon Pettigrew, Carl Nicks, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Haloti Ngata, Henry Melton, Jahri Evans, Jonathan Joseph, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Stanford Routt, Stevie Johnson, Tony Scheffler
As is the case with most fans, our eyes tend to watch the ball during a football game. We watch it from center to snap and handoff, or from center to snap to pass, and then (sometimes) catch.
But as you probably already know, a lot happens outside the purview of the quarterback. While researching coaching tape for “Playbook” each week, our team has a chance to watch every play from the widest, most all-inclusive angle there is — the “All 22” camera or “eye in the sky.”
From our study, we have a chance to really break a game down to its most basic elements, matchup by matchup.
Below, you will see five matchups from five games that we believe will be the first waves in a rippling pond. As you sit back and watch your team this week, see if you don’t notice a little more than that ball moving around the field.
Oakland at Buffalo
Bills’ WRs vs. Raiders’ CBs
Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had his pick of targets last week against the Chiefs, but that’s mainly because he had time in the pocket. He can’t expect as much facing DL Richard Seymour and Oakland’s defensive line.
If the Buffalo passing game wants to stay in rhythm, they will have to get the ball out quickly — and the wide receivers will have to win off the line of scrimmage. Oakland’s cornerbacks play a lot of man-to-man coverage, which means WRs Donald Jones and Stevie Johnson will work head-to-head against CBs DeMarcus Van Dyke and Stanford Routt.
Van Dyke, a rookie, was the track star of the draft process, running a 40-yard dash in the sub-4.3 range on some watches. But his ability to body-up receivers will be tested if Buffalo opts to run shorter routes to counteract the Raiders’ potent pass rush.
Baltimore at Tennessee
Ravens’ defensive front four vs. Titans’ offensive line
Even with former offensive line coach Mike Munchak now at the helm, the Titans struggled to block the Jaguars’ defensive front last week. Now, Tennessee moves up a grade level against DL Haloti Ngata and the Ravens.
Their first assignment will be to try and block Ngata, who has light feet and strong hands. This will probably require two blockers, which means the other three Titans linemen will need to win their one-on-one matchups versus DTs Terrence Cody and Cory Redding and rookie Pernell McPhee off the edge.
If the Titans have any hope of balancing their offense for QB Matt Hasselbeck and unleashing RB Chris Johnson on the second and third levels of the Ravens defense, they will need to make some difficult blocks at the point of attack.
Chicago at New Orleans
Saints’ interior offensive line vs. Bears’ defensive tackles
We know Bears DEs Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije will try to expose Saints OTs Jermon Bushrod and Zack Strief. That’s a given.
But what about the matchup of Henry Melton and the Bears interior players against the best guard tandem regarded as the best in the league — Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans of New Orleans?
Nicks and Evans are grinders in the run game and are tough to fool in pass protection. Melton got the best of Atlanta’s guards in Week 1 on stunts — on one play even faking a stunt with a subtle head turn before ripping inside — and collected seven quarterback hits. But can he hold up versus Nicks and Evans in the run? And can Melton, Matt Toeaina and Amobi Okoye get to QB Drew Brees?
One advantage is that former Bears and current Saints center Olin Kruetz knows Melton.
Kansas City at Detroit
Tony Scheffler/Brandon Pettigrew vs. the Chiefs’ nickel defense
While Chiefs CBs Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr will match up versus WRs Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, an interesting chess match will be played on the inside between the Lions’ tight ends and whoever the Chiefs try to throw at them.
Detroit loves to use multiple tight ends sets and will split Scheffler out into a two-point stance in the slot. At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, he is too big for a corner to body up and much too smooth of a route runner for most linebackers to mirror. The same can be said of the former first-round pick Pettigrew, who QB Matthew Stafford likes to throw to over the middle.
Chiefs nickel corner Javier Arenas is a great athlete in the return game, but he struggles in man-to-man coverage and could be tested by Pettigrew or Scheffler.
Houston at Miami
Johnathan Joseph vs. Brandon Marshall
In his debut with the Texans, Joseph locked up Colts WR Reggie Wayne. But Wayne didn’t have his quarterback, Peyton Manning.
In his second game, Joseph will face Marshall, who is now in his second year with Dolphins QB Chad Henne. Joseph is one of the better cover corners in the game, but he’ll have his hands full with the very tall, very physical Marshall.
It’ll also be interesting to see if the Texans roll any safety help over the top of the coverage on Marshall, or if they’ll leave Joseph on an island with Marshall. The Texans might not have that luxury, as rookie Clyde Gates has shown the speed and ability to take the top off coverage on the other side of the Dolphins’ formation.
– Jon Blau, “Playbook” video editor/researcher
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