You know you can have the best week of practice of your life. You can get all your tape study in and understand your opponent like no other. You can be ready.
But when Sunday rolls around you’re still going to be in for a rough day. So in honor of the overmatched, a new weekly feature here at Pro Football Focus: The Beatdown Watch.
The aim is quite simple: give you fans some ample warning as to some offensive line mismatches you need to watch out for.
Cameron Wake vs. Austin Howard
Back in Week 3, Howard was coming off a decent enough start to his year. He’d had some problems against Pittsburgh, but there was hope he’d be an improvement on Wayne Hunter. Then Cameron Wake rolled into town.
It did not go well.
Howard gave up three quarterbacks hits and five hurries to Wake as the former CFL superstar abused him all game long. Since then Wake has gotten better, while the Jets’ right tackle has looked more than a little shaky. The Dolphin has produced more pressure (despite playing a game less than some) than any other defensive player with his 45 combined sacks, hits, and hurries and is currently the top-ranked player at his position.
You can’t say the same thing about Howard who has the fifth-lowest pass blocking grade of all tackles.
Beatdown Probability — HIGH! Mark Sanchez should wear some extra padding.
Trent Cole vs. Sam Baker
On the surface of things, from a 2012 perspective, this doesn’t have the hallmarks of a big time beatdown. The Eagles Cole isn’t having his best season to date, and his +4.3 grade sees him 23rd in our 4-3 DE rankings. Meanwhile Baker, the much maligned former first-round pick, is having his best season to date. A +3.0 grade comes largely on the back of his pass protection which looks a worlds better than at any previous point in his career.
So why is this match up here? Well, if anyone remembers Week 2 of 2011 they’ll know why.
Cole inflicted one of the biggest whooping’s we’ve seen during our time at PFF with Baker walking away with a disastrous -9.6 grade, and the Eagle walking away with a sack, two hits and nine hurries and another four stops in the run game. Will history repeat itself, or has Baker learned his lessons?
Beatdown Probability — LOW! Baker looks to have shaken off an injury that impacted his play there. He may not shut down Cole, but he should be able to slow him down a little.
The Smiths vs. D’Anthony Batiste
Life’s really not fair for Mr. Batiste this week. He heads into this showdown as our lowest-rated tackle in the entire league. He’s given up 10 sacks, four hits, and 32 hurries. He’s been flagged for seven penalties. He’s in way out of his depth. So what doesn’t he need right now? Well how about the combination of Aldon Smith and Justin Smith?
Whisper it quietly but neither man has been quite as effective as they were in 2011. Aldon can only find himself in the 13th spot in our 3-4 OLB rankings with his Pass Rushing Productivity dropping to 9.8 after it was at 15.4 in his rookie year. Justin has himself seen a drop-off, but has been making his impact felt more steadily as the season has gone on. With Arizona not big on offering Batiste help, it seems a certain he’s going to have to deal one-on-one with both men, an awful lot.
Beatdown Probability — OFF THE CHARTS! We’ve seen some bad grades in our time and Batiste himself owns a number of them. This one has the smell of something that could be joining the list.
Lamarr Woodley vs. Tyler Polumbus
The Steelers got Woodley back for the game against Cincinnati and he responded with a 100% snap, two quarterback hit day. That wasn’t what we’ve come to expect from Woodley, but then 2012 has been something of a disappointment as he’s battled injuries, missed time and been an awful lot less effective than previous years.
It’s like he’s in a funk of some sorts, but fortunately a remedy may be at hand. While James Harrison draws the tricky assignment of Trent Williams, Woodley has to worry about the weak link on the Redskins line, Tyler Polumbus our fifth-lowest ranked tackle.
The Redskin right tackle has struggled more with his run blocking but if you saw the way Carlos Dunlap took him to task in Week 3, you know he’s capable of getting abused in pass protection. With an average time to throw of three seconds for Robert Griffin III, Washington won’t be shy about asking him to hold up.
Beatdown Probability — KEEP AN EYE ON THIS. If a 100% healthy Woodley shows up, then the only thing that will slow him down is how quickly RG3 gets rid of the ball, and how often the Steelers drop him into coverage.
Justin Houston vs. Willie Smith
There’s always the possibility that Khalif Barnes returns, something every Raider fan should be hoping for after watching Smith struggle in place of him.
His form has been so bad this year that realistically he’s the only player who could, with an extended run in the first team, challenge the Cardinals duo for the tag of ‘Worst Tackle In The League’. Since he entered the game against Miami he’s been a liability and has now given up 24 combined sacks, hits, and hurries while actually looking halfway dent in the run game.
The Chiefs will at times switch their outside linebackers from side to side, but Smith is more likely to see Justin Houston coming at him. The sophomore stud has been a constant menace when rushing the passer, putting forth a 15.4 Pass Rushing Productivity number that is bettered by no other 3-4 outside linebacker who has rushed the passer at least 100 times.
The only problem is that Kansas City has seen fit to hold him back a bit, and he’s only rushed the passer on 56.9% of passing plays. The best form of defense Smith might have is saying a prayer and hoping that Romeo Crennel keeps Houston on his heels.
Beatdown Probability — MODERATE. The Chiefs have proven that they’re not going to fully unleash Houston the pass rusher, so while he’s likely to win this duel, he won’t have enough opportunity to put the exclamation mark on it.
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