It's a long held truth-ism that size and styles make the fight. Be it boxing, with Pittsburgh's own Billy Conn nearly winning the heavyweight title against world champion Joe Louis in the days of yore (despite just being a Light Heavyweight), or the legendary Jiu Jitsu fighter Royce Gracie taking on boxer Art Jimmerson in UFC 1, size and styles clash and create great matchups.
Whether size (Conn versus Louis), or different styles (grappling versus striking), this week's matchups will create both a clash of size, and a clash of styles.
I say "matchups" because Arizona Cardinals strong-side Outside Linebacker Chandler Jones will flip ends and have a go with either Offensive Tackles Matt Feiler or Al Villanueva.
Jones is an eight-year veteran pass rusher who has already bagged 90 Quarterback sacks in his noteworthy career.
Standing 6-foot-5, and weighing in at 260-pounds, Jones will matchup with Feiler, at 6-foot-6, and 320-pounds in a striking contest similar to Billy Conn and Joe Louis.
Then, after a series or so, Jones will move to the other side and tussle with 6-foot-9, 320-pound Villanueva.
But whichever side he chooses to line up, there will be a contrast in size and style.
Feiler has great hands and desires to punch and use his kick-step to optimize his positioning. Keeping proper range or distancing helps those punches to keep Jones at bay.
If you can punch one of those mutant pass rushers in his chest/shoulder pad area (like Jones), and re-direct him, he can't grab you. Nor can he get his leverage to uproot if you keep him at arms length.
On the other hand, Villanueva has more of a standup "grappling" approach to pass protection. Villanueva will use his size and feet as well to stuff Jones. Optimally, for Villanueva, he will operate in closer quarters than Feiler.
Villanueva will attempt to keep Jones within his body circumference, and use his huge wingspan to absorb the bull rush.
Jones has 13 sacks on a 3-8-1 Cardinals team that is last in many statistics on defense. For him to have this many sacks, despite teams having the lead and being able to run the ball on the Cardinals defense, you begin to appreciate the search and destroy pass rushing skill set this man possesses.
Primarily an up the field pass rusher, Jones leans heavily on the inside arm "stab." Locking out the inside arm, striking the offensive tackle in the front shoulder pads region, then using your whole body as a bridge to leverage your strength, is the pass rush "du jour" of many sack masters these days.
Lining up over either Feiler or Villanueva, Jones will use two primary up-field tempos. One is rhythmic, the other non-rhythmic. Rocketing up the field, Jones will use his speed and quick feet to create an edge.
Villanueva is well schooled in the simple Tunch Ilkin pioneered tactic of knocking the leveraged arm down. Chopping down on the opponents arm with your own will collapse the "bridge," removing the leverage, and often times results in the opponent losing his balance and falling to the ground.
All that's left to do at this point is to gore your opponent while he's down. Whoops, can't do that anymore (sigh).
Though it sounds easy (knocking the arm down), trust me, it takes timing, accuracy and a touch of ferociousness.
Jones will sometimes set-up the hand stab with an inside fake and then up field rush. He will also use a classic "Forehead to the chin, climb the body bull rush" as a change of pace rush. And he is highly effective at that though he isn't that big.
Jones can "set the edge" with authority, and chase from the backside.
Jones' pad level tends to get high, yet he seems to be able to hold the point and not get taken for a ride. He's an explosive in-fighter, using his hands well in run defense, or when he runs the arc on a pass rush.
There is a trend that seems to show up at times when you're watching the tape. It's called "making business decisions." And that means players picking and choosing when they play hard. And it tends to be infectious. It's a pervasive attitude that seems to run through the Cardinals defense at times, and in various people.
However I don't believe for a moment the Steelers will run into anything less than an "inspired" Cardinals team when the Steelers land in Phoenix.