BENGALS RT ANDRE SMITH VS. SEAHAWKS DEs RED BRYANT, CHRIS CLEMONS
The Bengals have "The Red Baron" in quarterback Andy Dalton. The Seahawks have Joseph Anthony "Red" Bryant, listed as 6-4, 323, but he plays like he's 350 pounds and is a massive reason Seattle leads the NFL in allowing 3.2 yards per rush.
Usually Seattle tries to line up Bryant on the strong side so he can punish smaller tight ends, although the Seahawks do move him around some. The CW is that the 6-4, 338-pound Smith gets Bryant most of the time but he'll also get a few shots from the 6-3, 254-pound Clemons, a top-flight pass rusher coming off two straight two-sack games to give him 17 sacks in 22 games with Seattle.
Smith, off his coming-out game two weeks ago when he held Pro Bowl pass rusher Robert Mathis sackless with little or no help, has talked this week about the need to get off the ball in the NFL's loudest stadium that is a boon for speed rushers. Foes have committed an NFL-high 105 false-start penalties in the past 50 games at outdoor CenturyLink Field. Another strong outing by Smith is going to solidify his climb to reaching the potential of his top 10 draft selection in 2009.
Rob Rang, the Seattle-based draft guru that writes for CBSSports.com and NFLDraftScout.com, breaks down what's facing Smith:
"Most of the time Smith is going to get Bryant and I think that's a fascinating matchup, one I think that's going to be a stalemate because I really have a lot of respect for Andre Smith's run-blocking ability. There's no way the Bengals can try to block Bryant with just two tight ends and I would think they would want to release Jermaine Gresham into pass routes with Seattle's young secondary. Usually teams have been chipping with a tight end to help their tackles in the run game against Bryant."
(Note: This week, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden brought up the name of rookie tight end Colin Cochart, a guy the Bengals think can be a very good blocker who hasn't played since he struggled in the second game of the year in Denver. Gruden said "if he's active," so the Bengals could dress three tight ends along with Gresham and Donald Lee.)
"It's funny. I've always been very impressed with Smith's run blocking, but I've been a little disappointed this year with him as a run blocker and yet I think he's done really well as a pass blocker. I think he's really improved and is on the right track of becoming what was projected of him coming out of the 2009 draft as a top tackle in the league.
"I think it will be a great battle with Bryant. Really fun to watch. Bryant is not a fast-twitch guy. He's not going to run anybody down. He's not going to get sacks. But he's such a strong guy that does a great job holding up the point of attack, and I think he and Smith play it pretty much even.
"I think Clemons gives Smith challenges rushing the passer. Most of the time Clemons is going to be over (left tackle Andrew) Whitworth, but he'll be over Smith some too and he's a pure pass rusher that uses the crowd noise to his advantage. Smith can drive him off the line in the run game, but he hasn't played in Seattle yet and Clemons becomes a great player at home getting off the ball quickly with the help of the crowd.
"The good thing for Andre is that Clemons is a pretty similar player to Mathis. The same kind of speed guy and Clemons is hot. He's playing well. In fact, if the game were in Cincinnati, I would pick the Bengals to win and a big reason is how intensely the crowd is involved in the pass rush. Out here, Clemons has the edge.
"Most of the time he'll be on Whitworth and I give the edge to Whitworth, although the crowd again alters the dynamics. But there's no question that Whitworth is one of the top left tackles in the game. People who know football knew that before this season, but now that the Bengals are winning and he's playing well, everybody is starting to realize it.
"I may give Clemons the edge over Smith in this venue, but I will say the Bengals have done an excellent job in maximizing the talent they have. I think if they had Dalton taking seven-step drops, Smith would have a more difficult time against speed guys like Clemons and Mathis. But one of Dalton's strengths is getting it out quickly and that is also helping Smith in his learning process."