FILMSTUDY: 2 key Colts

Filmstudy FILMSTUDY: 2 key Colts

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The Colts have struggled to this point in 2008 losing all 4 of the games played at the newly minted Lucas Oil Stadium.  They pulled out a miraculous 21-point 4th quarter comeback last week at



Houston
which was largely keyed by their defense.  Since most of you know the key offensive weapons for each team, I’ve been focusing primarily on linemen for these articles.  This week, I think the Colts hopes will be closely tied to the performances of 2 blind-side players, LT Charlie Johnson #74, and RDE Dwight Freeney #93.  If you have the NFL Short Cuts version of this game, this will be more fun to review.  If not, you can try to get a recording of the



Miami
game for next week.


 

Dwight Freeney


 

There are a lot of similarities to James Harrison of



Pittsburgh
.  Both are high-motor pass rushers who have a tendency to rush themselves out of position on running plays.  While Freeney had a good game overall vs.



Houston
, make no mistake about it, he is a big part of the Colts’ weakness vs. the run.  Last Sunday, he was pitted against one of the league’s early draft disappointments in LT Duane Brown, who was selected 26th overall by the Texans and was featured in the article I wrote prior to the originally scheduled Ravens @ Texans game:
 


 

As

Harrison
did, Freeney outmatched Brown with a similar pass rushing style.  Unlike their week 1 matchup, however, the Texans took advantage of Freeney’s overplays to generate opportunities.  My observations:


 

·          Freeney finished officially with 4 tackles, 2 for loss, including a 10-yard sack where he forced a fumble.  His impact on the game was much greater, as we will see.

 
·          The Colts use Freeney on approximately 65-70% of plays, very similar to the Ravens use of Trevor Pryce.  He’s a pass-rush specialist who is replaced in running situations by J. Thomas, #91.  As far as I noticed, he lined up exclusively at RDE against the Texans.
 
·          The mismatch with Brown was apparent from the Texans first play (Q1, 9:35) as Freeney bull-rushed, pushing the much heavier Brown backwards and nearly disrupting the handoff as Slaton lost 1 yard.  Two plays later, on 3rd and 9 (Q1, 8:16), Freeney easily beat Brown with a spin move to the inside.  Rosenfels completed a short pass, but had it been slower to develop, Freeney would have had a sack.

 
·          Out of position, he recovered to hold Slaton to a 1-yard gain (Q2, 10:30).  That was a pitch well designed to beat Freeney.

 
·          With the Texans leading 17-10 (Q3, 6:18), he recorded his sack beating Brown easily to the outside.  He clubbed Rosenfels arm, dislodging the ball, which was recovered by Brown.  Brown’s recovery was to be a big play as the Texans were able to extend an 8:47 drive to a FG that would put them up 20-10.  Prior to his sack, Freeney had sat out 4 straight plays.  On the very next play, Freeney bull-rushed Brown, collapsing the pocket.  Rosenfels calmly completed the pass for 3 yards, but I’m not sure he would have been calm if he was left-handed and had to watch Freeney outplay Brown so easily all day.

 
·          On the ensuing 3rd and 17 play (Q3, 4:53), The Texans called a run left with Slaton, conceding the punt.  A now salivating Freeney was pushed out of the play as Slaton ran by him for 8 yards.  The Colts were also flagged for defensive holding on the play, giving the Texans a 1st down at their 46.

 
·          Still on the same drive (Q3, 4:04), Freeney beat Brown to the inside on a run middle.  Watch the play if you have the recording, but it looks to me like Brown gave up and allowed Freeney to take down Slaton for a 1-yard loss.  Perhaps Brown was hoping Slaton could bounce outside or he might be avoiding a holding call, but the play looked bad and I’m sure he heard about it in the film room.
 
·          The Texans still were not done offensively as they got the ball back at Q4, 12:17.  On 2nd and 10, the Texans ran left again with Slaton.  Freeney was blocked out of the play to the inside by a TE as Slaton ripped off a 41-yard run up the left sideline.  The Texans would run at Freeney twice more on that drive, including Slaton’s 1-yard TD run (Q4, 8:22), which ran the score to 27-10.

 
·          After the Colts mounted a 4:08 drive for a TD to pull within 10 at Q4, 4:10, they tried an onside kick, which was recovered by



Houston
.  The Colts pulled Freeney for run defense until 3rd and 8 (Q4, 3:54) on the Indy 39.  In one of the truly puzzling calls of the year, the Texans ran a naked bootleg with Rosenfels, faking the handoff to Slaton as the entire line blocked to the right.  Rather than gaining 4-6 yards and coming up short of a 1st down. Rosenfels went airborne, was hit by 3 players, including Freeney, who was one of the first to diagnose the boot.  Replays would show Freeney’s helmet dislodged the ball, but Rahim Brock was credited with the FF and Gary Brackett returned it 68 agonizingly slow yards to make it a 3-point game.

 
·          After the Colts kicked off deep, Freeney was reinserted on 2nd and 9 (Q4, 2:54).  He collapsed the pocket and Rosenfels threw incomplete.  On the next play (Q4, 2:54) Freeney was doubled, but pushed both men backwards, forcing Rosenfels to vacate the pocket by rolling left.  Mathis ran him down from behind and registered the sack, strip, and recovery to set up the Colts on their winning drive.

 

·          While no injury is recorded in the Gamebook, Freeney missed the last 4 plays of the game following the Colts TD.


 

Jared Gaither has played well this year and is much further along than Duane Brown, but he will have difficulty when singled up vs. Freeney.  As we know well, his size and motor posed a challenge for



Ogden
.  Much has been made of the chess match between Manning and Lewis, but Cameron and Meeks will compete to expose the weaknesses of Freeney and Gaither.  The Ravens have 2 slashing backs (McGahee and Rice) that are well suited to take advantage of Freeney.  Given the mandate to run left and pick a hole, they should be successful.


 

Charlie Johnson


 

The Colts normal LG has been moved to LT to replace the injured Tony Ugoh.  Johnson had the unenviable task of facing Mario Williams last Sunday and was thoroughly outclassed.


 

·          Williams beat Johnson 3 times on the very first drive using the same move.  I can describe it as a slight turning push on Johnson’s left shoulder with just the minimum force to allow the cat-quick Williams slide by to the outside.  Mario Williams is a huge DE, but it appears to me arm length may have been a big issue here.  Despite this, Johnson is a much better pass blocker than he is a run blocker.

 
·          I’m not sure if he uses different technique when playing guard, but he is a very upright run blocker.  He stays with his blocks for only a moment and rarely attempts to drive his man.

 
·          His best play of the day…he had 2 very good ones—(Q3, 12:46) he pancaked his man inside, then blocked another as Manning threw for a 9-yard completion…(Q3, 11:51) he pushed Bulman (#93) well to the outside as Addai ran left.  Addai slowed to find his blocks and Johnson picked up a nice level 2 block on one of the Texans’ DB’s (missed the number).  For one of the few times all day, he drove his man for more than a second as Addai picked up 13 yards.

 
·          His most comical play of the day?  On the Colts first possession of Q4 (13:02), he chose to help block inside on the DT rather than take Mario Williams outside.  That left only Addai to stop Super Mario, which wasn’t about to happen, and Manning was sacked for a 7-yard loss.

 
·          He pass blocked well on the Colts 1st Q4 TD drive, including a pancake of Bulman on the TD pass (Q4, 4:10).

 

·          He was flagged for 1 false start, but I’d say the Ravens pre-snap movement could give him more problems.


 

For this Sunday, each team has what appears to be a significant blind-side advantage defensively.  If either team decisively wins both of these matchups, they will likely win the game.
 
 
Photo by Sabina Moran

 

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Ken McKusick

About Ken McKusick

Known as “Filmstudy” from his handle on area message boards, Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports. He grew up within walking distance of Memorial Stadium and attended all but a handful of Orioles games from 1979 through 2001. He got his start in sports modeling with baseball in the mid 1980’s. He began writing about the Ravens in 2006 and maintains a library of video for every game the team has played. He’s a graduate of Syracuse with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Math who recently retired from his actuarial career to pursue his passion as a football analyst full time. If you have math or modeling questions related to sports or gambling, Ken is always interested in hearing new problems or ideas. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @filmstudyravens. More from Ken McKusick

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