It's been a tough first half of the season for New England Patriots cornerback Duane Starks. Starks has repeatedly been picked on downfield by opposing quarterbacks. In fact, in each of his last three games, Starks has been beat for a completion of 40 yards or more. The Patriots have done little to help the guy out, because they are committing their safeties to stopping the run. Things probably are not going to change this week.
Besides putting an extra man in the box to help against the run, defensive coordinator Eric Mangini will also be forced to roll safeties to Harrison's side more often than he would like. This in turn should open up more room for Wayne to operate against Starks.
But don't expect Peyton Manning to only take advantage on this match-up vertically. Starks also has a tendency to get turned around too early, which makes him a target on corner-post and comeback routes. These are the exact types of patterns Reggie Wayne loves to run and runs well.
Just like Marvin Harrison -- his counterpart on the right side -- did so many years ago, Reggie Wayne has worked hard at turning himself into an exceptional route runner. He shows explosiveness getting in and out of his routes.
Wayne also features very soft hands, great concentration skills, and solid body control. He knows how to use his body to shield and block-out defenders. While not the fastest of the Colts receivers, he does possess good after-the-catch speed and excels at making acrobatic catches outside his frame. That, combined with his soft hands, means Manning does not have to always put the ball on his numbers.
When he is on his game, Duane Starks has the ability to exhibit excellent man-to-man cover skills and outstanding range in zone situations. He shows great quickness, fluid motion, and excellent ball skills. The problem is that at age 31 many are starting believe that he's simply lost a step. And that likely explains his troubles in 2005.
Another problem for Starks is lack of bulk. He has a tendency to get outmatched in the red zone against bigger receivers and will struggle being physical enough in press coverage. Getting physical with the Colts receivers is something New England has excelled at in the past, but just may not have the personnel to do that now.
Key Matchup: Reggie Wayne vs Duane Starks
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