Here's a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-Jaguars game.
Browns C Alex Mack, OLG Eric Steinbach and ORG Shawn Lauvao or Floyd Womack vs. Jaguars DTs Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu
The Jaguars have a promising tandem along the interior of the defensive line in Knighton (20 tackles, 3½ sacks) and Alualu (24 tackles, 2½ sacks). Knighton, a third-round pick in 2009, has been one of several key contributors in a draft class that delivered in a big way, while Alualu, the Jaguars' first-round selection in April, stepped right into the starting lineup.
Mack, Alualu's teammate at Cal, has developed into one of the AFC's better centers. He's flanked by the athletic Steinbach on the left side. The right guard will either be Lauvao, a rookie from Arizona State who would be getting his first-ever start, or Womack, who has played right tackle recently but could move back inside with John St. Clair back practicing after an ankle injury and Billy Yates — who had started the last three games at right guard — out for the season with a biceps injury. Steinbach (calf) and Womack (knee) missed practiced on Wednesday and Thursday, but head coach Eric Mangini indicated he's "optimistic" both can play.
The Browns have a reputation for being a physical, run-heavy offense, and indeed, while they have attempted 251 rushes (4.2 ypc), they have attempted 28 more passes (262 throws, 17 sacks). Hence, how the Browns' interior O-line handles the pressure Knighton and Alualu can bring also bears watching.
In an interview with PFW on Thursday, Knighton gave his impressions of Mack, Steinbach and Womack:
"Their center, Mack, he's a really good player. He came into the league when I did, was thrown into the fire right away, and I think he responded really well to it. I just think he's a real quick guy, real feisty.
"And then they have Womack, who has been around for a long time. He is a guy that can overpower you against the run; he likes to get his hands on you and be physical.
"Then they have the other guard, Steinbach. He's a tall, not really heavy guy. More of their puller, he handles some of the finesse pass rushers better than Womack can. He is somebody that you have to use your power against.
"Overall, on the inside, they are a good group, which has been shown by the way they've run the ball. We just got to be physical with them, stay in our gaps and be technique-sound."