Barron may have tamed a Titan, but Strahan is a Giant challenge
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Sep. 29 2005
It's not as if Alex Barron was eased gently into his NFL career last Sunday.
With the game on the line and Tennessee defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch looking
like the second coming of Deacon Jones, Barron was called off the bench to make
his NFL debut late in the third quarter.
Barron performed well. Very well. Vanden Bosch didn't touch Rams quarterback
Marc Bulger the rest of the day - at least not when Barron was blocking him.
But if Barron thinks he was thrown into the fire last week, just wait till this
Sunday at Giants Stadium. Barron, a rookie offensive tackle, will be making his
first NFL start. His draw? None other than defensive end Michael Strahan of the
New York Giants.
"It'll be a real challenge," said John Matsko, who coaches Rams offensive
linemen along with John Benton. "Michael's playing at a high level. He's one of
the best players ever to play in the National Football League."
Matsko knows better than most. Before joining to the Rams in 1999, he spent two
seasons coaching the Giants' offensive line. His charges went up against
Strahan every day in practice.
"Michael goes as hard as he can go every day, every snap," Matsko said.
At age 33, Strahan is playing noticeably lighter than his listed playing weight
of 275. But even the trimmed down Strahan looks as strong as ever on tape.
"And he still seems to have the same quickness to me," Matsko said. "When I was
with the Giants, we had a lot of good athletes on that football team, and he
was the best-conditioned athlete on the team. He still looks like he's the
best-conditioned athlete. ... He looks like he could go forever."
Strahan is the NFL's active leader in career sacks with 120 1/2, a figure that
ranks 12th for all time. Of that total, eight and a half have come against the
Rams in eight games dating back to the 1993 season. The most memorable of those
eight contests came Oct. 14, 2001, when Strahan rang up four sacks and forced a
fumble against the Rams.
Best of luck, Alex. The soft-spoken Barron, who turned 23 on Wednesday, says
he's up for the challenge.
"Yeah, I'm all right," Barron said. "I'm going to take it day by day, watch a
good amount of film, try to get some notes down about some different things."
So what has he noticed watching tape of Strahan?
"Just how good he uses his technique and things like that," Barron said. "He's
a veteran in the league, and he knows a lot of tricks of the trade."
In college at Florida State, Barron played against many talented defensive ends.
"Chris Canty (Virginia), Shawne Merriman (Maryland), Justin Tuck (Notre Dame),
David Pollack (Georgia)," Barron said.
All are rookies in the NFL this season. But Strahan is a veteran of 13 NFL
seasons, a six-time Pro Bowler and a potential Hall of Famer.
"Yeah, it's a little different," Barron said. "Nothing I've been through
before. ... He's a great player on a good defense."
So how does Barron keep from getting nervous or too excited about his first
"All that may come or may not come by the time Sunday gets here," Barron said
Thursday. "But until then, I'm just focusing on what I need to do."
Then again, if Barron gets excited, it might be a first.
"I don't know if he can get excited," Matsko said. "I'm serious. He is as quiet
as Orlando (Pace). But he has a lot of personal pride. And a lot of heart. He's
extremely, extremely focused and a hard worker. He'll play as good as he can
Right tackle, obviously, has been a trouble spot for the Rams this season. Six
of the Rams' league-high 15 sacks allowed have come on plays where the right
tackle was beaten. Some others came on plays where Bulger was flushed into
trouble because of pressure from that side.
Barron is being called upon to shore up the position against one of the best
defensive ends in the business.
For his part, coach Mike Martz wants Barron to treat Sunday's matchup as that
day's job assignment. Nothing more. Nothing less.
"You line up and you play," Martz said. "Obviously, we're going to try and help
him a little bit (against Strahan)."
That could come in the form of double-team blocks, lining up a tight end on
Barron's side or chip-blocking with a running back. But at the end of the day,
Barron must get it done with his long arms, his athleticism and his toughness
"He's got to play," Martz said. "That's why he's here. It's why he's a
first-round pick. That's why he's starting. We're not trying to develop him.
You know, this isn't the Boys' Club. He's got to go play."
Re: Barron may have tamed a Titan, but Strahan is a Giant challenge
The pressure on Barron is increasing! This may be a watershead game for him. I think my expectations are realistic, he may get beat a few times (maybe more), but he will get better as the game goes on.
Now - if he plays really poorly, the media will jump on him and Martzie and restate that Barron's mean streak was not deep enough and the naysayers will come out in force and roost. If he plays average to above average against Strahan, then maybe - maybe (mind you) Barron will get some respect.
In mho, it's a win-win - I am not expecting perfection from Barron (so he doesn't have to play like a pro-bowler). On the other hand if he does show a glimmer of ability against Strahan... look out NFL.
Maybe the pressure on Strahan should start to increase????