Ryan Shazier may be only a second year player standing next to the nearly 30 year old Lawrence Timmons, but Keith Butler made it very clear Shazier is the man who runs the front seven.
“I think he really prepared well for this game. I think he’s starting to understand what we put on him. We put a lot on him. He’s like the guy who runs the defense, he runs the front part of the defense. And helps the secondary too with the secondary making a lot of calls. But they gotta be on the same page.
We give him a lot of checks he has to handle a s second year guy. I think he’s starting to get used to that now and it’s not as frustrating to him as it was earlier in the year,” Butler told Missi Matthews in this week’s Coaches Speak.
Butler hinted to the role Shazier played in calling this defense in late December but he was much more explicit about it this time around.
While it is surprising to see that much responsibility put on a second year player, and one who has missed large chunks of practice and game time no less, it’s impressive that the team thinks of him highly enough to put that on him. And now that he’s been playing non-stop for the last 11 games, it’s no surprise his comfort level has produced better play. He has his best game since Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers, finishing with 13 tackles and two forced fumbles in Saturday’s Wild Card win.
He’ll be tested again Sunday and asked to improve the communication compared to the first half debacle in Week 5, something Butler readily admitted to in the interview. A lack of communication was the biggest problem against the Denver Broncos, lowlighted by Emmanuel Sanders’ wide open 61 yard touchdown, the result of a “bad check” as explained by Butler.
Despite Peyton Manning playing at a much lower level, he’s still a veteran, extremely cerebral quarterback who will pick apart any defense that fails to play sound.