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Meat-Eater Matchup: Steelers at Eagles, Week 8

This week's Classic Jurassic Meat-Eater Matchup features a former Steeler, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, Javon Hargrave, locking horns with Steelers left guard Kevin Dotson in a power-based brawl in the trenches.

Both of these ballistic ballers check in at 300-plus pounds of brawn, with Dotson the heavier at 321 pounds. Hargrave stands in as the shorter of the two, at 6-foot-2, while Dotson is 6-foot-4. 

Hargrave, in his 7th year after originally being drafted by the Steelers in the third round in 2016, went to Philly as a free agent in 2020. Javon is known as the "Grave Digger." He plays with a low pad level and wrestler-like balance. He's hard to uproot or knock off his feet and certainly will be extra hard for anybody to out leverage. Blessed with a powerful set of ham hocks, Javon is capable of pushing cars and people alike. He set some team records in weightlifting while in college, and his power is on display with every snap of the ball.

Named to his first Pro Bowl following the 2021 season, Javon tied for second in producing the most pressures (58), was tied for third in most quarterback hits (18), while also recording the sixth-most sacks (7.5) among defensive tackles.  

His pass rushing skills can sometimes lead to a false sense of security for his opponent. Sometimes his rush is dictated by his responsibility in maintaining gap control and keeping the quarterback in front of him and not allowing the QB to climb the pocket north and south escape route. His group is hunting. With the wild and wooly pass rushers surrounding him, there are times needed to make sure the escape routes are covered.

But when he is able to cut it loose, his power immediately stands out and becomes apparent. Using his inherent leverage advantage in always being able to attain the Chuck Noll "under and up" posture, Hargrave will literally put bigger men on skates going backwards because of his ability to rush with such a low pad level.

Hargrave will alter his rush, lining up on an inside eye, and then cross the face of an offensive lineman to the opposite side, always attempting to get to the edge of a man. When you rush some of the man-mountains that reside in the offensive line, rushing straight down the middle of an opponent can be a futile lesson in going nowhere quickly. Quarterbacks get rid of the ball too fast, and the "mush rush" of a power-oriented, straight-ahead charge is mitigated by those quick releases.

Hargrave, because of his powerful lower body, is a tough nut to double team and dig out. He will line up at nose tackle as well as a 3-technique and excel at both. Taking on the charge of the post-up blocker, Javon will then throw his hip into the drive man and hold his ground, all the while maintaining that low leverage.

Kevin Dotson will have a battle on his hands, as will Javon. Dotson's strength is his "people moving" ability to lock up with an unruly defensive linemen and escort him to where Kevin wants him to go. Dotson is a knee-bender who can get a low pad level. Whoever wins the close-quarter-combat of inside hand position will go a long ways towards determining who comes out the victor.

Dotson also is pass protector dominant when he's on his game. With his strength, he can stuff the bull rush and with his long arms he's punch capable. Dotson's biggest challenge this week will be making sure he has a good knee bend and locks out with a strong punch.  

Remember the law of the trenches. There are two scoreboards operating at all times. One is for the teams and the fans. It's prominently displayed in the stadium on the Jumbotron. The other is personal for the combatants and the private battle they are engaged in with each other. It doesn't appear anywhere other than in the minds and bodies of the combatants. But it's known by both and is as real as any of those hanging in the end zones.  

It's the struggle, the magnificent battle between two combatants that rages in the trenches that I was drawn to in my younger days. The animalistic and ballistic beauty in the conflict that roars with each snap of the ball. Yeah, it's a riot.

And it's all about the men who slug it out there. …

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