One of the things Indianapolis loves about first-year starter Gary Brackett is his effectiveness in short-to-underneath pass coverage at the middle linebacker spot. This attribute is something that will definitely be tested on Sunday, because Bengals 3rd-down back Chris Perry is a huge receiving threat out of the backfield. The second-year player out of the University of Michigan is currently on pace for a 71-reception season, which would shatter the Bengals running back record of 55 set by James Brooks in 1986.
Rudi Johnson is the starting running back in Cincinnati and will see the majority of carries on Sunday, but third-down back Chris Perry provides a very nice compliment to the bruising inside running style of Johnson. Perry is more of a patient runner who waits for the hole to develop. But even though he's patient, he shows a burst and can hit another gear once the hole opens up. At times though, he tends to be a little too patient.
Perry is only averaging four carries a game, so when he's on the field it's more likely that the Bengals are focusing on their short to intermediate passing game. To slow Perry, Brackett must key and diagnose well. This will allow him to sniff out the short passes and dump-offs.
While Brackett does show a solid initial pop when taking on blockers, it's important that the Colts front four keep blockers away from him at the second level. Not having to shed blocks and deal with interior offense linemen will permit Brackett to use his speed and coverage skills to keep Perry in-check.
Gary Brackett vs Chris Perry
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