This week’s Meat-Eater Matchup features Steelers guard Ramon Foster lining up and throwing down with the Browns three-technique defensive tackle, Sheldon Richardson.
As of late, full disclosure, the Browns have been playing Richardson in multiple positions along the defensive front. And with the absence of Myles Garrett, I think he might be up and down the line of scrimmage even more.
But he will still face off with the Steelers eleven year veteran, the “Big Ragu,” Foster, depending on the down, distance and personnel package.
Toughness, strength and consistency are the hallmarks of Foster. Having started 140 of 155 games, he’s been a rock-solid front-liner for years. He’s stood the test of time, and then some.
Foster stands 6-foot-5, 328 pounds, and when these two go head-to-head, I’m going to make sure I have a front row seat. One of those epic matchups that make trench warfare fun to watch.
Richardson is in his seventh year in the NFL. Richardson spent his first four years with the New York Jets, and then has spent one year each, with three other teams.
It did surprise me to learn that Richardson has been with so many teams over the last four years. Those year-long stops in Seattle and Minnesota, before landing in Cleveland were productive, as were his four with the Jets.
If nothing else, he should have a good collection of helmets.
Standing 6-foot-3, and weighing in at 294 pounds, Richardson can play both the run and pass.
Athletic and able to run, trying to run the ball away from him won’t be easy. Richardson gains advantage over many lineman in locking out on them, before they can lock out on him. Or hold him.
On the pass rush hunt, when Richardson gets his bull rush on, he uses what I refer to as “Sumo hands,” or the rapid, short palm-strike punches that define the striking actions of the great “Yokozunas,” or the Japanese Grand Champions of Sumo.
His pad level is not what I would call low, but because he is so strong, he literally will out-wrestle his opponent in close quarter combative clinches.
This is where the battle in bull rushing will get tough for Richardson. I don’t see him out-wrestling the bear-like strength and size of Foster.
However, Foster should be aware of the fact that Richardson, on a pass rush, will blow up a gap and when he gets to QB depth, he will spin to the inside.
Taking one hand off the shoulder and checking the hip of Richardson, will stop the inside spin. Foster just needs to be aware of it.
At times Richardson will go for broke, crowd the line of scrimmage and gamble on a quick swim, or arm-over technique.
It’s an all or nothing proposition, where, either he will “ghost you” and you won’t touch him, or you catch him in the middle and crush him because he’s off balance. Because Foster doesn’t short-set on pass protection, I give Richardson little chance of ghosting the Big Ragu.
Foster will vertical set, or set back at the snap, and give ground grudgingly, which means that Richardson has to keep coming forward after Foster to time the arm-over. And it’s difficult to swim someone taller than you.
So I think the big confrontations will occur in the bull rushing, and that’s the best thing the Big Ragu stops.
In run defense, Richardson is a tough nut to crack. Because he uses his hands so well, backside cutoffs are difficult. Foster will need to get off quickly on the snap count and gain ground on his first step if he hopes to cut off Richardson’s pursuit.
At the point of attack Richardson can be a rock, and if so dispositioned, he will disengage quickly and still make the tackle.
Staying locked on the double team, trying to move Richardson back into the lap of the linebacker will be tough. Foster has the four-wheel drive necessary to get the job done, but it will be neither easy, nor nice.