The Redskins deployed a 2-4-5 defense against the Packers in Week 5 and Green Bay responded by running for 145 yards. But, 71 of those yards came on one play from Brandon Jackson in the first quarter. The Packers abandoned the run, though, and passed 46 times versus only 17 rushes. If Peyton Manning comes to the line and sees that defense, he will audible to run plays more often than pass plays, even if Joseph Addai is not ready to go.
Maake Kemoeatu played sparingly last Sunday and he is Washington's best run stuffer. Former Titan Albert Haynesworth is a game-time decision. Kemoeatu normally plays nose tackle in their base 3-4 defense, so his presence on the field will be the first sign to Manning as to whether the Redskins are trying to stop the pass or the run.
If Kemoeatu is on the field, Manning should pass the ball as much as he can. If he is not on the field, Manning should feed the ball to Addai or Mike Hart, get the defense to start creeping up to the line of scrimmage, and burn them with play action. Aaron Rodgers does not have a strong play fake and the Packers did not use that strategy in Week 5, so the Colts should have success with it in Week 2 as they did against the New York Giants.
Ends Adam Carriker and Kedric Golston have the prototypical body types to play the position in the 3-4 defense, but have not yet adjusted to the new scheme, which defensive coordinator Jim Haslett installed in the offseason. Their first instinct is to rush the passer, as they did when they played end in the 4-3 scheme, but the end in the 3-4 defense is primarily responsible for gap discipline and occupying blockers so that the linebackers can make plays.
Second-year man Brian Orakpo served the team well as a 4-3 defensive end, but has been moved to rush linebacker this season and has responded with four sacks in the first five games. Haslett tends to line Orakpo up where he faces the best matchup and that would be on the strong side of the formation opposite Ryan Diem, who struggles against speed rushers.
If Diem can handle Orakpo one-on-one in the passing game, the Colts should be able to be effective through the air. Washington very rarely brings extra attackers, so Orakpo should be the only player that they need to worry about when the ball is snapped. If Orakpo can be contained and spends most of his time defending the run, Manning will have the extra time and opportunities he needs to carve up the Redskins secondary.
Even without Orakpo, this would be a formidable group. Washington primarily deploys a Cover 2 defense behind their front four, with middle linebackers London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh covering a lot of ground in the short and intermediate zones. Fletcher is a very intelligent, high motor player that is a sure tackler and knows how to lay a mean hit on an unsuspecting wide receiver or tight end that wanders into his area. Dallas Clark and Austin Collie will need to be aware of Fletcher and keep their heads down when contact comes.
McIntosh is a high energy player and an exceptional athlete. The Redskins linebackers practice sound fundamentals in addition to their athletic prowess, so it will be difficult for Manning and company to gain a lot of easy yards underneath.
Outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander also has 1.5 sacks on the season, so he could be used on stunts and blitzes in the passing game. Manning and Jeff Saturday need to ascertain whether or not Alexander is coming as the extra attacker when they come to the line. He may come instead of Orakpo. He may come in addition to Orakpo. They key will be determining the combinations and timing.
Having said that, Washington currently ranks 32nd in the league in yards allowed per game at 410.2. They have subsided on a bend-don't-break system thus far this season because of the intelligence of their linebackers, the depth on the defensive line, and the aggressiveness of their secondary.
The Packers — who came into Week 5 as the second-best red zone offense in the NFL — scored only 13 points against the Redskins despite gaining 450 yards of total offense. The Colts have had their issues inside the 20 in recent weeks, but they cannot afford to let opportunities slip away against this defense when they get within striking distance.
Carlos Rogers is not a dream matchup for Reggie Wayne, but Wayne should be able to work on Rogers throughout the course of the game to gain some separation. Because of the range of their linebackers, Washington does not allow a lot of completions on slants and quick-ins. But, due to the fact that they play a fairly loose Cover 2, they do allow some sizable completions on deep posts, 15-yard outs, and 15-yard ins. Wayne needs to get a clean release on Rogers at the line and threaten the secondary with a deep move, then cut inside for some easy yardage.
Pierre Garcon, working against D'Angelo Hall, should have similar success, but Hall is more aggressive and can be caught on an island attempting to make a big play. Garcon needs to find his timing back with Manning on the slant-and-go route that worked so well for them in 2009. Hall will fall for it, though strong safety LaRon Landry is a big hitter that also backpedals well in coverage.
Baiting Landry to the line will be extremely important. Since the Colts know they won't be able to pile up yards underneath, they need to protect Manning long enough for him to get the ball to Garcon and Wayne on posts and outs, which will make Landry start to cheat. If they are able to run the ball, Landry will move into the box in an attempt to help out. He had 13 tackles and a forced fumble against the Packers, so he enjoys the reputation that he can be everywhere on the field. Once Landry starts to cheat in, he can be fooled by play action and double moves. The best way to avoid the red zone is to score from outside the 20.
Collie and Clark may struggle in this game, as they will be bracketed by linebackers as well as cornerback Phillip Buchanon (for Collie) and safety Kareem Moore (Clark). The amount of attention paid to Clark and Collie — Clark especially — has paid off well in past games this season, especially against Denver in Week 3. Whatever Collie and Clark can get in the deep seam will only help Indianapolis, but the only way that they can hurt the Colts is if they give up. That's the worst case scenario.
If they are not at least effective decoys, then the passing game will suffer. If they are able to keep the linebackers, Buchanon, and Moore occupied, then that will open things up for Garcon and Wayne to gain chunks of yardage between the 20s. From there, it is up to Manning, Addai (or Hart), and Brady Eldridge to hit pay dirt when they get close.
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