In advance of tonight’s game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, Pro Football Focus broke down the key matchups to watch for, and the highlight of their article was how former Bengals guard Evan Mathis would matchup against All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins:
While most of the Eagles’ offensive line went down with an injury, one player has remained since Day 1. That is left guard Evan Mathis who is by far our highest ranked guard in 2012. In the pass game, this former Bengal has yet to allow a sack, and has a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 97.7; third-best for left guards in the league. Where he really stands out is in the run game, where he has a Run Block Rating of +1.6 or higher in nine of 13 games. On top of that, he is also the top-rated guard in screen blocking.
The Bengals like to move their defensive tackles around a lot. That means the NFL’s top tackle, Geno Atkins (who lines up at the right defensive tackle spot on 51.8% of plays), will get to face off with the league’s top guard often. Over the last five weeks Atkins has been dominant in pass rushing, with a sack in each of those games and an average of eight pressures per game. In the run game he leads all defensive tackles in run stops with 24, and has the second-highest Run Stop Percentage at 11.3%. If you ever want to spend a game focusing on an elite battle on the inside of the line, this is the time to do it.
Mathis currently leads their rankings with a +41.8 mark, 21 points ahead of the next-highest player, and 25 points ahead of Bengals rookie guard Kevin Zeitler (+16.1). The Bengals let Mathis go as a free agent after the 2010 season in which he played in 12 games with no starts. There was a reported “rift” between he and the coaching staff, as well as the fact that he simply didn’t want to be in Cincinnati, which led to a reduction in his playing time.