The Patriots’ offensive line is an extremely solid overall unit. Pass protection, however, can be shaky at times, especially from offensive tackles Ryan O'Callaghan and Matt Light. Since O’Callaghan is a rookie going up against Colts sacks leader Robert Mathis, let’s take a closer look at that matchup today.
At 6-foot-7, 340 pounds, Ryan O'Callaghan is a massive OT, who because of his size can dominate at the line. But with size like that he does give up a little bit in terms of athleticism.
O'Callaghan was an All-American at the University of California. The Outland Trophy finalist excelled at run blocking, leading the way for one of the best rushing attacks in college football. The guy is a real road-grader who has the strength to push opposing defensive linemen into the secondary. His technique in run blocking is nearly flawless. But pass protection has been a real trouble spot at times.
In the Patriots’ opener, O’Callaghan was victimized by Bills DE Chris Kelsay. Kelsay had success beating him to the outside in that game, causing the rookie to play with a very uneven base. Last week in Minnesota, despite the excellent play of his team, O'Callaghan had another uneven performance. Vikings rookie defensive end Jayme Mitchell had two sacks against him. In the second quarter, Mitchell simply overpowered the right tackle. He used his speed to add another sack in the fourth quarter.
The challenge doesn’t get any easier for O’Callaghan this weekend. Robert Mathis is the type of defensive end that should give the rookie all kinds of headaches. Mathis is a relentless high-motor player, who beats offensive tackles with his speed and spin move. His solid lean and ability to turn the corner puts extra pressure on the edge. Mathis currently leads the Colts with 5 sacks and should continue to benefit by DT Anthony ‘Booger’ McFarland lining up next to him. McFarland can command extra attention, providing Mathis plenty of one-on-one opportunities.
O’Callaghan’s inability to adjust and block a moving target well was such a glaring area of concern that some thought heading into the draft earlier this year that he would be better suited to play guard in the NFL. If Mathis is having success using his speed to get O’Callaghan off balance and out of his base, he should get plenty of pressure on Tom Brady Sunday night. But in the run game, the obvious advantage is with the Patriots. With his 100-pound advantage and run-blocking skills, you better believe New England will call plenty of runs behind their right tackle.
Mathis will be giving up an astounding 100 pounds to the big OT out of California. So O'Callaghan’s goal will be to engulf Mathis and use his hands and weight to dominate. Mathis, on the other hand, wants to make the big guy move his feet. Whichever one succeeds in getting the other to play his style of football will emerge as the winner of this key matchup.