NFL Mismatches in Week 1

The Rams banged up secondary must find a way to contain Ike Hilliard, who is poised for a breakout year.

Updated: September 4, 2003, 4:04 PM ET
By By Ryan Early | NFL Insider
Welcome back to another exciting season of NFL football. Each week we preview one match-up per game that is such a mismatch that it should make an impact on the game, either through its exploitation or in changing a team's plans to try to compensate. For this first article, each mismatch will highlight an aspect of a team that has changed since last season.

Jets at Redskins
OC Kevin Mawae and LG Dave Szott vs. DTs Jermaine Haley and Bernard Jackson
The Redskins' run defense will get a quick test by going up against Curtis Martin. They entered training camp with what looked to be a decent starting duo, but Dan Wilkinson was released when he refused to take a late salary reduction, which was followed immediately by Brandon Noble being lost for the year with torn ligaments in his knee. Out of desperation, Washington traded for two defensive tackles in Lional Dalton and Martin Chase. While they will both see some action, the new acquisitions are not ready to start. Jermaine Haley, signed away from the Dolphins as a restricted free agent, also has a minor ankle injury. He and Jackson will have to deal with Kevin Mawae, one of the best centers in the game. He is an expert at using leverage to push a would be tackler out of the running lane, and is also exceptional at getting into the second tier of defense and take on linebackers. Dave Szott missed all of last year to injury but is back and ready to go. The right side of the line is a bit suspect after Tom Nutten abruptly retired a few weeks ago, so expect Curtis Martin to get a majority of his carries to go left. Martin was hampered by ankle injuries all last season and still gained over 1,000 rushing yards. While many believe he is getting a bit long in the tooth, he is looking to regain the 1,300 yard average he had over his first 7 seasons.

Patriots at Bills
LB Roosevelt Colvin vs. FB Sam Gash
The former Bears linebacker is the perfect addition to the Patriots' new 3-4 defense. While offenses will never know exactly what Colvin is going to do as he can drop back into coverage, his strength is rushing the passer. While he has made 10.5 sacks each of the last two years, Colvin should be among the league leaders this year. The Bills will have to know where he is on every play. Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe still holds onto the ball longer than he should, and the Bills will have to use a tight end or fullback Sam Gash, back with Buffalo after two years in Baltimore, to help keep Colvin off the former Patriots quarterback. The Patriots were especially adept at defending their former leader as the coaches know Bledsoe's habits and tendencies probably better than he does. Getting Bledsoe on the move is the first step in reducing his effectiveness, and Colvin will be happy to chase after him.