Behind Enemy Lines, Part Two

Michael John Schon continues his interview with Indianapolis Colts team expert Ed Thompson and asks him about the matchup between Indy's wide receivers and the Denver secondary, what the Colts defense is likely to do against Jay Cutler, an assessment of running back Joseph Addai and more!

Michael John Schon: Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are unquestionably one of the best receiving duos in the NFL - but this may be the biggest test of the year, going up against Champ Bailey and Dre Bly. From your perspective who wins this battle on Sunday?

Ed Thompson: I think this is going to be one of the most fascinating matchups of the game, quite honestly. These are four highly talented athletes, so it may simply boil down to which ones are "in the zone" on this given day. I honestly think tight end Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Addai could be more active as receivers than Harrison and Wayne. Of the two, I like Wayne's chances better to have a big impact.

MJS: What's the latest on linebacker Rob Morris and are there any other injuries that may play a significant role in Sunday's matchup?

ET: Morris is making progress and it appears that he'll be ready to go if he doesn't have a setback. Rocky Boiman has filled in capably for him over the past two weeks. Although the Colts have a number of names on the injury list, I believe the starters will all be ready to go with the possible exception of left guard Ryan Lilja. And the Colts have a very capable backup with starting experience, Dylan Gandy, who could fill that gap if Lilja can't go.


Reggie Wayne in the season opener
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

MJS: Last season Reggie Wayne torched the Broncos defense for 138 yards, three touchdowns and a crucial two-point conversion. This Sunday, Denver counters with two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Dre Bly. Give us your assessment of this matchup and some insight on how Manning will utilize Wayne in the secondary.

ET: I think this will be a very physical battle that will be challenging for both players. Manning is likely to look to Wayne on some quick slants and some well-timed out patterns, hitting him near the sideline very quickly after his break. If Manning can get some rhythm going underneath Bly, then expect to see him fake the throw to the outside as Wayne breaks to the post instead. I honestly expect to see the Colts hit the run game, their tight ends and short passes to Addai early in the game to see if they can get the corners to relax a bit. If they can't, they may have to ride that strategy most of the game.

MJS: In only his second year, Joseph Addai has put up some pretty respectable numbers. What type of runner is he and do you expect his workload to significantly increase this Sunday, given the nature of the Broncos rush defense?

ET: I fully expect the Colts to go after Denver hard with their running game as it's a key to getting some pressure off of Wayne and Harrison. If Manning can get the running game going, his play-action skills are a real weapon. Addai is a smart, quick runner who has the speed to get around the corner on the Colts' stretch play, but he has nifty cutback moves that confound defenses as well. And he's a durable back who won't crumble on first contact.

MJS: Does the game plan change much knowing rookie Jay Cutler's under center as opposed to a veteran like Jake Plummer? The initial game plan is going to be focused on stopping the run to force Denver to the air. Until that happens, it really doesn't matter who is calling the signals. But on obvious passing downs -- or if the Colts succeed in making the Broncos one-demensional -- they'll definitely be pinning their ears back to try to rattle him. But they'll attempt to do that primarily with their front four. Indianapolis doesn't traditionally do much blitzing.


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