David Stewart vs. Justin Houston: Is Big Country up to the challenge?

Rich Schultz

As usual, I will be diving into the prime match-ups to watch going into the Titan's next game against the Chiefs at LP Field. Now, though, I wanted to get into a battle that could flip the game on it's head (And do it in an unbiased fashion so visiting Chief's fans don't label me a delusional homer!)

I am, of course, talking about the Titans RT David Stewart against the NFL's sack-leader through 4 weeks, Chief's LOLB Justin Houston.

I will start with the man in red. Houston has been a force to be reckoned with so far this season, and looks to be blossoming into a premier pass rusher. He's off to a blazing start with 7.5 sacks already to his credit as well as 1 forced fumble. He has feasted on the subpar offensive lines of Jacksonville and New York (Giants), and kept up his frenetic pace against the Cowboys and Eagles too. The Chief's defense so far this year has been predicated on Houston and co.'s ability to rush the passer out of their base 3-4 alignment. So far, they have delivered, and it has given them sacks on over 10% of QB drop backs, leading the league. By comparison, the Titans are actually only a few spots behind them with a sack on 8+% of drop backs, but these clubs go about it in a very different way. Justin Houston's ability to set the edge and play solid coverage, as well as blitz the passer is certainly impressive, and he deserves all the credit coming his way.

Now we get to the man affectionately known as Big Country. The big tackle was a fourth round pick by the Titans nine years ago (the same draft that saw the Titans pick up LT Michael Roos) and has been a true anchor at the RT spot in every season since his sophomore year. During his career, only three teams have allowed less sacks than the Titans. He has seen every trick in the book and he has proven himself time and time again (while receiving very little media fanfare for his play). Stewart has faced some tough competition so far this year, and doesn't look quite as good as his pre-injury self. Whether this situation improves will be worth tracking as we head into the teeth of the schedule. That said, he has still proven himself a solid player.

Big Country will certainly have his hands full this game. This match-up could be a major deciding factor in the game. In my opinion, Houston has yet to face a tackle of Stewart's caliber this season, so it will be interesting to see how he fares. I would expect a sack and/or some good play from Houston, but I do not expect either player to dominate the other.

What do you think happens Sunday in this clash of Titans?

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