Though he plays on the opposite end of the line from multiple Pro-Bowl performer and sack artist Simeon Rice (now 13th on the all-time sack list), defensive end John Engelberger plays a very important role for the Denver defense and should not be ignored.
Originally from Heidelberg, Germany, Engelberger was drafted out of Virginia Tech by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He is now in his 8th season in the NFL and has not missed a game for the past four seasons -- three of those with the Denver Broncos. He was acquired in a trade by Denver a few weeks before the start of training camp in 2005 for linebacker Willie Middlebrooks.
As the left end in Jim Bates' scheme, Engelberger doesn't have the pass rush responsibilities of Simeon Rice (the Jason Taylor type of role). Engelberger's task is to disrupt the tight end off the line of scrimmage in the passing game and to play two-gap defense (occupying the left tackle and tight end to free up the Sam linebacker) in the running game.
At 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, he's undersized to play this role but uses his hands, upper body strength and position techniques to anchor very well against the run. He also possesses excellent instincts and seems to have a knack for sealing off the inside when the runner decides to cut back -- and for stretching the play out when the runner decides to bounce to the outside.
Engelberger's ability to execute well in those areas opens up clean pursuit lanes for the talented trio of tacklers on the left side of Denver's defense -- linebacker Nate Webster, cornerback Champ Bailey, and safety John Lynch -- allowing them to make plays when the tailback has the ball.
Engelberger works out during camp
AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
While he does his job exceedingly well, Engelberger's numbers in the passing game seem to have suffered and it appears to be highly unlikely that he has natural pass rush instincts as he's posted just one sack in his three seasons with the Broncos.
Since Joseph Addai's two greatest strengths are his short-area quickness that allows him to easily bounce any play to the outside and his cutback ability, a game plan that includes copious amounts of running plays to the right side of the Colts formation seems to be an exercise in futility.
Indianapolis would be better served to run directly at Rice. After all, if Dwight Freeney's first four seasons in the league taught us nothing else, the best way to slow down a ferocious pass rusher is to run right at him. In the passing game, the Colts should either roll Peyton Manning to Engelberger's side or split Dallas Clark out wide to the strong side of the formation. Placing Clark over there affords him a clean release off the line of scrimmage where he can then take advantage of the pronounced edge he holds over linebacker Nate Webster.
On Sunday, the Colts will be best served by running away from Engelberger (at least early on) and allowing Ryan Diem to slowly wear him down throughout the course of the game. If they are able to successfully tire Rice with the running game and Engleberger with the passing game, there will be opportunities late for Addai to run off-tackle to either side and easily get to the second (or third) level before he encounters a would-be tackler.
However, ultimately it's essential that Indianapolis plays to their strengths early in the game -- as opposed to playing right into the hands of Jim Bates and his talented defense.