I enjoy writing about the classic confrontations that highlight life in the trenches. Tackle to tackle and all points in-between, the battles that rage within the "box" ultimately produce or reduce the chances of getting a "W."
This week's Classic Jurassic Meat-eater Matchup highlights the Colts' outstanding defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who will play over both Steelers guards in a 4-3 alignment, against Kevin Dotson and James Daniels. And they both will have their work cut out for them.
The first thing you notice about Buckner is his length. He stands 6-foot-7, and weighs in about 300 pounds. The second thing that jumps off the screen at you is his athleticism. And the third is that his strength will surprise you. For such a tall and long player in the trenches, Buckner has an excellent low pad level. Coupled with a huge wingspan, Buckner can create chaos in the pits.
He's already notched 5.5 sacks and forced a fumble. With a good bull rush, Buckner can force a quarterback to "throw from inside a well" with his long arms. Obviously, short crossing routes can be a problem.
Buckner is what I refer to as a "shape-shifter," a guy who doesn't give you a good punching surface. Because of his ability to reduce the amount of chest and shoulder pad space his opponent can contact, he can draw holding calls.
Buckner has an excellent swim technique, using his height and long arms to go arm-over even the tallest of the offensive linemen. Buckner also can throw a mean uppercut as well.
When Buckner has a 1-gap responsibility, he has shown he can get skinny and penetrate the A-gap, getting up field quickly. He has a great penetration charge, and the double teams have to make sure they secure him at the point of attack.
Nailing down Buckner with a double team isn't easy. For the lengthy pit wrestler that he is, he plays the double team extremely well. He uses his hands to lock out on the post-man and throw his hip into the drive blocker, all while maintaining a low pad level.
And as with a lot of what he does, he will not give up much upper body surface area to make it easy on either Daniels or Dotson. There are times though, Buckner will get nose trouble and get a little high while trying to read what's going on and get snipered on a double team.
To further complicate the lack of punching surface, by using his long arms in a 2-gap where he's in a read mode, he can lock out on with good strength and mirror, again keeping his body at arm's length. This can certainly cause a "pileup on aisle 5," effectively stuffing the run game like a Thanksgiving Day turkey.
The Colts defense is 11th overall versus the run, but over the last three weeks they are second in yards per carry (3.4) to the 49ers. And one of the big reasons is Buckner.
Daniels and Dotson, as well as center Mason Cole, who will surely draw some double-team action on the big man, will have their hands full in this matchup.