The 2nd Level

Ed Thompson takes you to "The 2nd Level" with a deeper look at Larry Tripplett, Peyton Manning, Aaron Moorehead and a trio of Jaguars in today's column.

Every week it seems that there are a few twists or oddities in how the Colts chalk-up another victory. Of course, one of the most apparent last weekend was defensive tackle Larry Tripplett catching the pop-up fumble from Steve McNair as he was being crushed by Dwight Freeney, and then sprinting as fast as a big man can for a 60-yard touchdown. It was Tripplett's first touchdown of his pro career. 

He's been stepping it up again as of late. Tripplett had two sacks in the opener against Baltimore, and then hit a dry spell. But now he's added two more over the past three weeks. He entered his fourth NFL season with just one career sack.

Unfortunately for the Colts, he's turning the corner just in time for unrestricted free agency. That makes Darrell Reid's presence on the roster and development even more important this year.

But how about this for an oddity? Peyton Manning completes just 13 passes against the Titans but 3 of them (23%) are touchdown passes as the offense scores 28 points.  The last time Manning only completed 13 passes in a game was in week two against the Jaguars. The Colts slipped by at home with a 10-3 win in that one. The difference is a good indicator of how potent and balanced this offense has become. Early this season, 13 completions translated into a nail-biter. Now it simply means the Colts found other ways to move the ball on that day.

By the way, if Manning has a huge day on Sunday against Jacksonville, it will be a notable achievement. Jacksonville is ranked 4th against the pass this season. But better opportunities are ahead for Manning as none of the remaining teams after that are ranked in the top half of the league against the pass. And San Diego, their next opponent after Jacksonville, is currently ranked #27.

Speaking of Jacksonville, keep an eye on news regarding running back Fred Taylor. The Jax running back hasn't played since November 20th against the Titans, missing the last two games due to a sore ankle. He's averaging 4.2 yards per carry while backup Greg Jones has averaged 3.7. Neither one has been a factor in the passing game with Taylor catching just 10 passes and Jones 7 this season. At minimum, it's likely that you'll see Taylor splitting time with Jones this week. But let's hope he has to shake off some rust like Ben Roethlisberger.

Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee continues to pound the ball deep on kickoffs, something Colts fans will envy on Sunday. And after an erratic start to his season when he missed four field goal attempts during the first two months, he's hit nine out of ten opportunities since the beginning of November to raise his success rate to 78 percent. While that number pales when compared to Mike Vanderjagt's 93.8 percent (15-16),  he's only missed one out of ten all season at home. So if he shanks one on Sunday, you'll be seeing a rare miss. Scobee's converted both of his 50+ yard attempts, including a 53-yarder that matched his career-best. Vanderjagt hasn't been asked to attempt one over 50 yards as of yet. His longest of the season to date is 48 yards.

Rookie wide receiver Matt Jones doesn't appear to be a favorite of backup QB David Garrard. Prior to the quarterback switch caused by Byron Leftwich's broken ankle, Jones was getting more touches, including a breakout game against the Ravens four games ago. Jones had five catches for 117 yards and a touchdown in that one. He also rushed twice for 12 yards. Over the past two games, Jones has just one catch for seven yards and two runs for 11 yards since Garrard took over.

A tall, talented receiver for the Colts -- Aaron Moorehead -- has to feel even more left out than Jones. The third-year player out of Illinois has dropped off the radar after seeing action in seven games in each of his first two pro seasons. He traveled with the team to Baltimore but didn't play. Since then, he's been on the inactive list every single week, making him ineligible to even suit up on Sundays. Moorehead will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and with John Standeford exhausting his practice squad eligibility this year, it'll be interesting to see if the Colts make a play to keep Moorehead in Indy during the offseason.

 


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