[From BBS- I'm back, and I will be in the chat room tonight for the Monday night game. In the meantime, enjoy shake n bake's preview.]
Only hours until gameday now and some news is trickling in.
From Phil B, Jamey Richard did not make the trip, so you can mark him down as one of the inactives along with Sanders, Santi and Gonzo. Throw in Painter as the 3rd QB and the Colts are sitting 3 healthy players at most (and with Powers, Gijon and Charlie Johnson listed as questionable they might be sitting none). Phil B also passes along that Pierre Garcon will be making his first NFL start tonight and just an hour south of his hometown, West Palm Beach.
On to the match-up. Two injury situations are key to how the game plays out. Gijon Robinson and Jerraud Powers are questionable after practicing Thursday and Friday, but missing the week's final practice on Saturday. With Tom Santi ruled out, Gijon Robinson's health will be a major factor in determining the usage of Clark, Tamme, Addai and Don Brown. Without Gijon one or more of the 4 RB/TEs will likely be forced into a primarily blocking role to help Charlie Johnson and Ryan Diem handle pass rushers Joey Porter and Jason Taylor. If Gijon is able to go it opens up the RB and other TE on the field to attack the Fins LBs and Safeties, a potentially major weakness in their defense. The Phins have struggled covering TEs from preseason through week 1 this year, so an unleashed Clark and/or Tamme would be major assets for the Colts O.
Powers puts the defense in a similar situation. He's replaceable, but not having him limits what the D can do. The expert opinion is split on how Powers would be replaced, Phil B guessing that Tim Jennings would get the start, while Oesher thinks that Marlin Jackson would take the start on the outside and slide to the slot when Tim Jennings came in the in nickel, like the secondary did before Jackson and Hayden's injuries. Either way downgrades the outside coverage in blitz situations. Powers was drafted and won the week 1 start thanks to his ability to play both man and zone coverage. Jackson is likely not back to 100% on his rebuilt knee and both Jackson and Jennings had been immersed in the almost exclusively zone Colts D for several years.
Pass Pressure will be the key for both sides. Between the two teams players accounting for nearly 400* career sacks will take the field tonight. If one team is able to get pressure while the other isn't it's likely to be a lopsided game very quickly.
With the return of Big Ed, Mookie and Muir integrated into the system and considerably threat of the deep ball than usual the Colts have the set up to be able to stop, rather than just contain a competent running game tonight. Good tackling will be a necessity against a team that won't get impatient and lob ill advised deep shots.
Both Os have a significant wild card going for them. With the Dolphins it's their various iterations of the Wildcat offense. The Colts repeatedly shut down a unbalanced line, power running attack from the Ravens last year, despite being severely undersized, but the Dolphins Wildcat offers more challenges, especially with a pass/run threat like Pat White able to take the snaps. On the Colts side it's not a unusual formation that presents challenges to the D, it's the ability to run a vast array of usual formations with the exact same players. The Colts can run everything from 2 TE-Singleback, to 5 Wide to a Splitback formation from the same personnel package (Wayne, Garcon, Clark, Tamme, Addai). The Colts can give the D vastly different looks and strengths, while the hurry up and lack of substitution prevents the D from making personnel adjustments.
The Colts need to give Peyton time to throw, keep the Dolphins from eating up the clock with the run game on dink/dunk passing and not allow any big plays on blown tackling or wildcat confusion. If the Colts can pull it off they'll sit a game up in the division and over the rival Pats, Chargers and Steelers, with a two game lead over division foes Jacksonville and Tennessee.
*391 career sacks, including 6 players with over 20 career sacks: Jason Taylor (121.5), Joey Porter (83), Dwight Freeney (71.5), Robert Mathis (53.5), Raheem Brock (25), Jason Ferguson (22.5).