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Eyes in the Backfield
18 things to watch for in the Jaguars/Colts game
The first place Jack Del Rio is heading when the Jags hit LA.
With a miracle win under their belt, the Colts look to get this season going in the right direction by taking down the struggling Jaguars. Both teams have to view this game as a must win, as the Jags have stumbled out of the gate and are in serious danger of falling permanently out of playoff contention. Here's what to watch for on Sunday:
1. Watch for the MASH units. Both teams have had their offensive lines decimated by injury, and it's seriously affecting their ability to run the football. The back-ups that do a better job in run blocking should come out with a win.
2. Watch for the two givens in any game against the Jags. Josh Scobee will miss a short field goal and Jack Del Rio will make a major coaching gaffe. It happens almost every time these two teams play.
3. Watch the slot. Especially if Dallas Clark comes back, it may be a game of Russian roulette for the Jags in the slot. The only problem is that every chamber has a bullet. It doesn't matter who the Colts play there, Wayne, Gonzalez and Clark will take turns carving up the Jags over the middle.
4. Watch Marvin Harrison vs. Rashean Mathis. Harrison has taken flak this week for his lack of production in the Minnesota game, and some have suggested that he's lost his ability to beat teams deep. He did have a chance at a deep catch against Chicago in week 1, but dropped the pass. Harrison occupied Minnesota's number 1 corner last week, but his weak route early lead to a pick. Mathis has a rep as being a great cover corner, and if he's matched up with Harrison, Marvin could be helping the team even if he only has a couple of catches.
5. Watch Maurice Jones Drew on returns. The Colts kick coverage hasn't been too awful this year, but now that Bob Sanders is out for a month, Melvin Bullitt will be starting at safety and presumably NOT covering kicks; Matt Giordano has been hurt as well leaving the Colts without two key special teams contributors. Jones Drew has tortured the Colts on kick returns in recent games, and the Jags offense desperately needs a spark. Brian Witherspoon has been returning kicks for the Jags, but don't be shocked to see MJD back on kickoffs this week.
6. Watch the rookies. The Jags have struggled with their O-line injuries in part because they traded so many draft picks to obtain Derrick Harvey. Harvey did pick off a pass in week one (though to be fair, that said more about Vince Young than it did about him). Their other prime rookie pass rusher, Quintin Groves, had a sack/fumble last week. If the Jags can't get pressure from their two big rookies, it will be a long day for them.
7. Watch the blitz on 3rd and long. Jags D-coordinator Gregg Williams loves the blitz, and has been burned by big plays on third and long early in the season. He'll try to force pressure on the Colts patchwork line, and if they Horse can pick up the blitz, there should be huge gainers open deep downfield for 11, 87, and 88.
8. WATCH YOUR BACK, PEYTON! Charlie Johnson is playing left tackle. This was a disaster for large stretches of last season, so don't be surprised if the blind side rush wipes out #18 on multiple occasions.
9. Watch Garrard press. Last year he played solid in Indianapolis (24 of 29 with two scores and a pick) in a losing effort. He has been more than shaky this year (1 TD, 3 INTS) and will be feeling plenty of pressure to put the team on his back. He has already thrown as many picks this year as he did all last season
10. Watch for walking boots. Jags' owner Wayne Weaver is a majority owner of Shoe Carnival. Convenient. That means he won't have trouble finding affordable footwear as he prepares to march his team right out of Duval County.
11.) Watch for slumped shoulders. Joseph Addai and Dom Rhodes have combined for 71 yards on 31 carries for a miserable 2.3 yards per carry. While it isn't their fault, they have to be extremely disappointed so far. If the run game stalls early, look for the Colts to completely abandon it in favor of plays that have a chance of working.
12.) Watch for the hate. DeShawn Zombie loathes the Jaguars with passion bordering on the irrational. He smells blood and badly wants to seek them fall to 0-3. If the Colts have a lead late in the game look for DZ to seek out the sole Jags fan in the building. Demond may have to taser his brother to stop a crime from being committed.
13. Watch for Lucas Oil to hit its stride. After a rough opener the Indy fans will pump up the volume. No one (like Jersey Johnny for instance) will be moaning after this game about how LOS will "never have a football atmosphere." The stadium was loud in week one, right up until the Colts gave the fans nothing to cheer about. The Jags will be whining about crowd noise again this week.
14. Watch for Reggie Williams and Dennis Northcutt. To do anything. Going into the game Matt Jones is Jacksonville's leading receiver with 11 catches followed by Jones-Drew. The Jags won't get into the win column until that changes. Fortunately for them Marlin Jackson is battling injuries, so they may get to throw against the immortal Tim Jennings. If the Kitty Kat WRs can't manage to find holes in the zone against him, they official suck.
15. Watch for the return of calm. September used to be an easy-going month in Indianapolis. That changed in 2008 when the season started with a rude awakening. If the Colts can outlast the Jags they will cruise into the bye week feeling really good about the future. With a week of rest and some very winnable games, the Colts can still manage to hit their stride before the rough part of the schedule comes.
16. Watch for visible improvement. The Offensive line should gel somewhat this week as the team appeared to settle on a configuration in the second half of last week's game. The only positive to the O-line injuries is that they have given the coaching staff a chance to evaluate the young crop of lineman. Steve Justice at Right Guard should be the only rookie starting on the line if Jeff Saturday is able to play as expected. Having Dallas Clark should help as well, as the rookie TEs have struggled in pass protection.
17.)Watch for the big game hangover. The Colts won an emotional game on the road against the Vikings last week, but they should be just fine back at home. We're worried about the hangover from Gators-Vols on Saturday. Jags fans may not wake up in time to. . .
18. Watch for moving vans. The Colts will take this one 21-10, dropping the Jags to 0-3. With the Jags season all but lost, they will struggle to sell tickets the rest of the year. This will set off a chain reaction that will end with Jags moving to Los Angeles after next season.
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