In 2006, the task doesn't get any easier for the Colts offense as they head into the Meadowlands to face the NFC East Champion, the New York Giants in front of a national audience for their season-opener.
While New York finished in the bottom third of the league in total defense, one area in which they excelled was quarterback sacks. They were tied for eighth in the league with 41 on the season, just five behind the fourth-place Colts. And now they have some additional firepower after adding former Redskins linebacker La Var Arrington to their defensive mix. They're even reportedly toying with the idea of integrating some 3-4 looks into their defense due to the addition of 6-foot-4, 318-pound nose tackle Junior Ioane.
While three-time Pro Bowler LaVar Arrington apparently didn't see eye-to-eye with Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, his new head coach in New York, Tom Coughlin, likes what he has seen out of Arrington so far.
"LaVar has been in here every day," Coughlin said. "He has a smile on his face. He has studied the playbook. He has worked well with the other players and the assistant coaches. We are very pleased with him. It's been good. He is starting to get a handle on what we are going to ask him to do."What the Giants want Arrington to do is play strongside linebacker in their defense. That move will force veteran Carlos Emmons to move to the weakside. Coughlin believes the change will work to the Giants' advantage. "They have both been on the strong side and both been on the weak side," Coughlin said. "In this defense, LaVar can be the biggest factor. I have been impressed with Carlos working off the ball so I think the moves are going to work out."
Coughlin likes the thought of moving Arrington up next to either one of his Pro Bowl defensive ends -- Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora – to put additional pressure on the quarterback. Last year the pair produced 26 sacks, 63 percent of the team's total. They'll battle Indy's Pro Bowl offensive tackle, Tarik Glenn, and sixth-year veteran Ryan Diem in the season-opener. But it will be up to the Colts tight ends or running backs to help keep Arrington off of Manning's back.
"I think he is powerful over the tight end," Coughlin explained. "I think he is challenging for a back to have to block. Hopefully, with him lining up next to Strahan or Osi, it is going to give (offenses) some thoughts about how the protection should go on that side."