Meat-Eater Match Up: Steelers-Ravens

The man stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 335 pounds. And he wasn’t even the biggest man in his family. For though his father, not quite as tall at 6-foot-7, outweighed his son, and tipped the scales at a mighty 360 pounds.

His father, Orlando Brown Sr. enjoyed a 10-year NFL career, playing for both the Browns and the Ravens. Brown Sr. at one time, was the highest paid offensive lineman in the league. Senior was known as an energetic and intimidating player, partly because of his style of play and his massive musculature.

And thus was the nickname borne, “Zeus.”

Orlando Brown Jr. plays the same position for the same team. Brown Jr. wears a bandana during every game in memory of his father, who had a bandana in his equipment bag the night he passed away.

Brown Jr. plays right tackle, and this weeks “Meat-eater Matchup” has Zeus Jr. taking on the Steelers TJ Watt. The battle royal that is sure to occur already has got me looking forward to this set-to.

The matchup of a colossus like Brown Jr. versus Watt might seem a mismatch on paper. But trust me….knowing what to, how to, when to, where to and why to, evens out a tilted playing field. Knowledge is power….and Watt has plenty of knowledge.

Brown Jr. has decent feet. Not great feet, but certainly nimble enough to play the tackle spot, and do so at a high level.

His kick-step to set up in pass pro against a wide rusher morphs into a basketball shuffle step after two or three kick-steps. A shuffle step makes an offensive lineman vulnerable to a bull rush straight down the pipe because it brings your feet close together when you shuffle. Feet close together mean an unstable base, with little strength.

Against a pass rusher, such as Watt, who at a “mere” 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, is capable of an “under and up” climb the body, full leveraged bull rush. And he can do it against a man who is 6-foot-8. Believe you me, that 6-foot-4, with proper leverage, will multiply power in Watt’s favor.

When Brown can “plant and punch,” not having to move his feet much, he’s at his strongest. There’s an old pass blocking axiom, “you can’t fire a cannon out of a canoe.” Brown, with both feet planted, presents a formidable opponent. More like a barge than a canoe.

Face-to-face squared up pass protection or point of attack run blocking will tilt in favor of Brown if Watt doesn’t get him to move. Watt knows he has to make Brown move, preferably in a canoe.

Brown has a good, strong “punch” to the chest and shoulder area of a pass rusher. He will work both hands together simultaneously, or use them in a one-handed “stab” fashion whereby he alternates punching with one hand, and then the other.

Brown also has a good sense of his arm length range, and timing so that he often connects with his punch with a nearly locked out arm. This translates into more power.

After the punch he’s a noted “jersey re-adjuster,” or as Steelers radio play-by-play announcer Bill Hillgrove likes to say, he’s occasionally guilty of “Habeas Grabbus.”

Brown will take some plays off cardio-wise now and then. He also seems to operate with a clock in his head, rather than just playing to the whistle. But when he’s fresh and strong, he’s got tremendous power via some serious ham-hocks.

Running plays in which he’s at the point of attack turns Brown into a mauler to maintain contact. With his enormous size, Brown will try to engulf Watt, while using his hands to grab Watt’s chest plate on his shoulder pads. From there he will try to pull Watt close and attempt to drive him backward.

Brown struggles with a higher pad level than you would like. But to be fair, of course, anytime you are standing 6-foot-8, you’re going to have a high pad level from the get-go. But that same size also creates a problem for anybody who is locked up with him, and attempting to look over him, or around him for the ball.

If Watt decides to run the arc up the field and around the horn, so to speak, Brown is fully capable of making Watt take the long road. He will simply use his arm length to escort Watt around the back of the pocket. 

Close study of double-team blocks with Brown partnering with perennial Pro Bowl guard Marshall Yanda, find Yanda having to do much of the work alone. Brown seems be in a big hurry to get to the linebackers.

Brown will put two hands on the down defensive lineman as if he’s blessing him, and then move off on a search-and destroy mission for second level operators.

But this leaves the defensive tackle with his hand in the dirt with an opportunity to create a log jam, as long as he can win a one-on-one matchup with Yanda. No easy task to be sure.

On running plays away from Watt and Brown, Zeus Jr. will simply position himself so as to eat up the most space available, sometimes positioning himself in between two opponents. He will then take the “most dangerous,” or the opponent who has the best chance to disrupt the play. 

Back in the day, we referred to it as a “genius block.” A blocker’s choice if you will, of playing a zone defense against the defense.  

To sum up, Watt versus Brown Jr. will pit movement, quickness and strength (Watt) against overwhelming mass, arm length and sheer weight. I like Watt in this matchup because;

1.) With great hand technique (such as trapping or knocking down the hands) such as Watt has, he can nullify the punching ability and excellent arm length of Brown when setting the edge on run defense or shortening the corner on an up field rush. Hand to hand close-quarter-combat will be thick and heavy. But Watt has the essential hand fighting skills and knowledge to off-set this.

2.) Watt has greater quickness and foot-speed. On a pass rush he can get Brown moving backwards, and then attack straight through Brown on a bull rush after getting him to open up and turn his shoulders to the sidelines by going up the field. By suddenly planting his outside foot on his up the field rush, and veering to Brown’s inner edge Watt can channel the “speed to power” rush of Hall of Famer Kevin Green. (Hint: it’s around the third kick-step Watt). Timing it to attack when Brown’s feet come together will help. One of the great tricks of the trade of boxers in the days of yore, was to watch the feet of their opponent, and attack when they maneuvered their opponent into a position of vulnerability. Many a boxer dusted the ring canvas with their butts, and didn’t even know what hit them, because they over looked their footwork. And the victorious boxer? He would just smile…..knowledge is power.

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