Colts Key Matchup: Harrison vs Webster

Want two sentence blurbs on key matchups? Then go to one of the national media's websites. At ColtPower, Greg Talmage provides hardcore Colts fans with four full articles weekly on the matchups that will impact the outcome of the game. Three of his four columns weekly are ColtPower Insider exclusives.

One matchup you'll want to keep your eye on Sunday night is veteran wide receiver Marvin Harrison and second-year cornerback Corey Webster. Peyton Manning is sure to test the young Giants defensive back early to determine if the Colts have a mismatch that they can exploit as they strive to notch their first win of the 2006 season.

Second-year cornerback Corey Webster saw action as a two-game starter and slot corner in 2005. Now he's the starting left cornerback in New York, which means he'll find himself matched up against the opposition's best wide receiver week in and week out. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin obviously thinks a lot of Webster or he wouldn't have thrust him into such a vital role so quickly.

Just how important is Webster's maturation for the New York Giants? Ken Palmer over at Giants Insider does not mince words; Palmer flatly states that Webster holds the key to the success of their entire defense ( For a secondary that has had problems picking off passes in recent years, it's Webster's instinctive ability to make plays and be around the football that gets Giants personnel excited. Last year, they finished 27th against the pass and registered a mere two interceptions by cornerbacks.

Webster is not a burner, so he needs to be protected a lot more in the vertical passing game. He has good speed and is quick, smooth, and fluid in coverage. The kid is still a little green though in terms of learning coverage techniques and his responsibilities in the pro game. He'll face the ultimate test in that regard this week when he lines up across from Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison.

Even at age 34, Marvin Harrison is showing no signs of slowing down. He is coming off another outstanding Pro Bowl season with 82 catches for 1,146 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Harrison knows how to get open because he understands coverages, prepares for every game, communicates with Manning and runs precise routes. Honestly, there is no better receiver in the league when it comes to precision route running. Just a slight slip-up by a corner and Harrison will make you pay.

Corey Webster is definitely aware of that. Webster is coming off a terrific training camp, but not without the occasional young-player hiccup. For example, in a pre-season game against the Jets, he gave up an inexcusable 40-yard pass to Justin McCareins on third-and-eight after getting turned the wrong way. If there is one tandem a corner cannot afford even the slightest hiccup against, it's Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

Webster knows he'll be a marked man this season as opposing quarterbacks test to see exactly what he's made of. And that's exactly what I expect Manning to do in the Meadowlands. The Giants will likely roll free safety Will Demps over to help the young corner with Harrison. If they do, you might not see Harrison put up big numbers against the duo, but this will put Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne in plenty of one-on-one situations against the savvy cornerback Sam Madison. If Wayne can stay a step ahead of the 10-year veteran, Manning and Wayne could have a big night thanks to Harrison.

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