One-on-one opportunities have been few and far between for Indianapolis receivers this year. Opposing defenses are showing mostly zone packages and doing all they can to prevent Manning from going downfield.
Last year at this point, Reggie Wayne had 26 receptions for 434 yards and 3 touchdowns. This year he has 21 receptions, 289 yards and 1 touchdown.
The glaring difference is the yards. Because of the zones and double-teams, deep passing opportunities just are not present.
So Reggie Wayne is going to have to continue doing what he did so well last week against San Francisco. In that game, he made several catches by coming back to the ball and finding the soft spot in the zones.
Wayne has developed into one of the best #2 receivers in football. Every aspect of his game continues to improve. He features very soft hands, great concentration skills, and solid body control. He knows how to use his body to shield and block-out defenders. Just like his counterpart Marvin Harrison, he has also developed into a very solid route runner, showing explosiveness getting in and out of his routes. His reading and adjusting skills have improved too.
He's not the fastest of the Colts receivers, but he does possess good play speed -- especially after the catch -- and excels at making acrobatic catches outside his frame. That, combined with his soft hands, means you do not have to always put the ball on his numbers. He is still not much of a downfield burner or deep threat. He's much more of a possession guy, which against Travis Fisher is probably a good thing.
Cornerback Travis Fisher is a track star with excellent speed. Ironically, while his speed is great, his footwork is not. And as a result he depends too much on his make-up speed to cover errors he will make with his feet. He simply takes too many false steps.
A receiver who is a crisp route runner with the ability to get in and out of cuts quickly will give Fisher all kinds of fits. Truthfully, he should only be left one-on-one against downfield burner types, because he can run alongside even the quickest of sprinters.
Fisher's improved his zone coverage skills a lot over the years. He knows how to get adequate depth and can cover a lot of ground when dropped into a zone. He possesses adequate ball skills, plays with high intensity and does not back away from his duties in run support.
However, he's undersized and will have problems matching up with bigger receivers. He lacks ideal bulk, so he will get pushed around at times, and receivers can have some success shielding him from the ball. Using his body to his advantage is something that Reggie Wayne knows how to do well, and he's likely to exploit edge that during this game.
Even though they do not have great corners, St. Louis has not been afraid to blitz their safeties so far in 2005. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues on Monday Night. If so, this will present some one-on-one opportunities for Colts receivers downfield that Manning and his receivers will quickly turn into yards and scores.
Key Matchup: Reggie Wayne vs Travis Fisher
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