This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the disdain towards Indianapolis Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Every time he has a bad outing, or even a bad series for that matter, there’s talk of everything from trading him, moving him all the way to cutting him.
If you’re going to watch the Colts offensive line and not see that Castonzo is pretty good at what he does, then you’re blinding yourself to the bigger picture of what could be with this line. Granted, he’s not perfect. He’s not even one of the top-10 left tackles in the league most likely, but he is a quality NFL lineman and is by no means a liability with all things considered.
NFL tackles are assigned to take on some of the freakiest athletes in the game week in and week out. And for what we’re looking at today, Chandler Jones is one of those without question.
Let’s just preface this film session with the obvious. Jones — not including the 3 sacks he already has this season — has accumulated 41 sacks over the past four seasons, and in one of those seasons he only played in 10 games. I’d say he’s among the elite, right?
Now that that is out of the way, let’s take a look at Castonzo’s performance in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals.
We’ll start with a simple one. Castonzo gets his drop while maintaining the structure of the pocket. He doesn’t bite on any of the inside-out footwork that Jones uses in attempt to set him up with, and he handles the engagement despite the punch that Jones brings at the point of attack.
For a left tackle, this is a win regardless of the fact that Jones is able to disengage and slip underneath once Jacoby Brissett begins to try to escape the pocket.
This is a prime example of the athleticism that Castonzo does possess for a big guy. His feet are quick, he’s able to react to Jones setting him up with the outside step and pushes him hard inside to the guard eliminating a rushing lane. Additionally, he’s quick enough to kick back outside to take on the secondary rush move by Olsen Pierre, meeting him head on and keeping him outside of the pocket as well.
If you don’t think Castonzo is athletic, just watch how quick and deliberate his hips are. Watch how he turns them to push Jones inside, then has the ability to flip them back to square up with Pierre in time to take him on. None of these plays are the definitive example of what Castonzo is as a player, but the good is absolutely there.
Look, I don’t know what to tell you about this play. Chandler Jones is 6-foot-5, 265 pounds and he can gallivant around like this while remaining powerful and technical with his hand usage. In the end, Castonzo loses sight of Jones when he tries to lock up with him and ducks his head.
Due to the fact that there was no real engagement, Jones is able to push past him and Castonzo simply doesn’t have the speed to recover and keep Jones completely off of Brissett’s back. Luckily it was good enough to allow Brissett to get the ball off successfully.
Simply put, Jones is a master at hand usage and this play is a perfect example of that. Remember the other day when looking at the Colts plays of the game, and I told you that pass rushers attack joints? Well, that’s exactly what Jones does here to Castonzo.
Jones establishes the distance between himself and Castonzo by getting that left arm out and initiating contact. As Castonzo gets his hands up and tries to get some push off of Jones, his reach isn’t long enough to get a solid hold. Jones then immediately grabs Castonzo’s left wrist and pulls it away from his jersey, pulls it towards him and down getting Castonzo off balance and it works to perfection.
The only thing that best describes this clip is — this is a top 5-10 pass rusher in the NFL against a top 15-20 left tackle and it’s going to happen a handful of times per matchup. Good thing Brissett felt him coming, because a split second later and Brissett is the victim of another sack.
Here we see what professional athletes are expected to do — learn and improve. This is a situation very similar to what we saw in the previous clip. Again, Jones initiates contact with his left arm, but this time his left arm is bent just enough for Castonzo to get ahold of his jersey.
Castonzo has him now. Jones attempts the same move to disengage attacking Castonzo’s left wrist, but Castonzo powers through Jones’ body and doesn’t allow him to get away. As a result Castonzo is able to pancake him and alleviate Jones as a threat to Brissett.
This is excellent by Castonzo working through what he knows is coming and tipping the scales into his favor against a superior athlete with brute strength.
But then there’s this. Much of what Jones does here is the same as the past two clips. However, what Jones doesn’t do is attempt to take the edge until Castonzo engages. He waits to see how Castonzo will set up to shut him off to the pocket, and then he not only pulls with one arm to get Castonzo off balance, he pulls his pads down with both hands and basically out-leverages Castonzo to offset the strength factor.
Yes, Castonzo got abused on this one, but it’s almost laughable at how impressive Jones is with his repertoire of different ways to get to the quarterback. A) Jones gets to Brissett in a flash, and B) he forces the strip and nearly a turnover. There’s no excuses here for Castonzo, he simply got beat in every sense of the word.
For the final clip, we’ll end on a positive note. This time we see Castonzo initiate the contact. This takes Jones off balance thus his punch to the outside of Castonzo’s left shoulder doesn’t have nearly the effect that it would have if Castonzo waited for Jones to engage first.
Jones’ momentum forces him to lose any power he had going into his initial move, and has to settle to adjust and go at Castonzo all squared up. This is exactly what Castonzo needs to do more of when the clear path for the pass rusher is to attempt to go outside. The problem with this particular matchup — which should be pretty self-explanatory at this point — is that Jones has an arsenal of different moves and counters and is uber athletic on top of it all.
Looking back on it all, these are just a handful of examples of what the game looked like. Castonzo did pretty well overall matched up against one of the best in the business. Ultimately, Castonzo doesn’t often get much help, he’s ‘on an island’ so to speak.
With that said, he often holds up enough to keep the quarterback clean through his release. He has the potential to be very good, and has been through the majority of his career though we tend to focus on the 10 percent of his snaps that he is less than great.
There isn’t a harder position on the field outside of the quarterback position, and there’s only 10 top-10 tackles in the league. The Colts have one of the 15-20 best in the league, precisely what 12-17 other teams would dance in the streets to get on their roster. He’s certainly not above criticism, but he’s also been the one mainstay along the line since he’s been in Indianapolis.