After last weekend's game against the Eagles, Houston cornerback Lewis Sanders knows he's coming to Indianapolis as a marked man.
Prior to Week 1 action, Fox Sports' Fantasy guru Roger Rotter listed Sanders vs. Eagles wide receiver Donte Stallworth as a mismatch that Stallworth fantasy owners should heed. The newly-acquired Stallworth ended the game with 6 catches for 141 yards and 1 TD.
While Stallworth did have an exceptional game and Sanders was the corner lining up across from him, you can't put the blame squarely on Sanders. On the 41-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to Stallworth, for example, Sanders played short and let Stallworth have a free release downfield because he thought the safety was going to take the coverage. Safety C.C. Brown, however, bit hard on the play fake and blew the coverage allowing Stallworth to get open.
Lewis Sanders is a big physical corner, who must jam receivers at the line in order to be successful. Sanders wants to press and hit receivers at the line in order to get them off their routes, because the more he has to move his feet the worse off he is. What he gains in strength, he loses in speed.
Sanders' fluidity, change of direction skills, and heavy feet leave a lot to be desired. He lacks initial quickness, struggles if left on an island, and when caught out of position doesn't have the speed to recover, so safety help is essential and to be expected. He's starting to become more comfortable in a zone, but doesn't appear to be there yet. He wasn't expected to be a starter at the beginning of training camp, but a foot injury to DeMarcus Faggins and the inconsistency of Phillip Buchanon quickly moved Sanders from No. 4 on the depth chart to No. 2.
What should make the Sanders vs. Reggie Wayne match-up intriguing is the potential physicality of it. When Sanders presses (and he will press because he wants to avoid a footrace), Wayne will not back down. Sanders, though, just needs to disrupt timing. If Manning looks over and sees Wayne not getting a release -- and also a safety cheating over -- he'll look another direction quickly. On the flip side, if Manning sees Wayne even with a small step on the tactically slow Sanders and a non-committed safety, he'll go there.
Reggie Wayne is an excellent natural athlete, but isn't usually mistaken as a burner or consistent deep threat. He gets open because he runs solid routes, reads and adjusts well. He also knows how to work the middle of the field and use the sideline to his advantage.
This looks like a mismatch, and on paper it definitely appears to be one. Expect Houston to know that and roll plenty of double and maybe even triple coverage looks Reggie's way. If they don't, it could be Reggie Wayne's first big day of the 2006 regular season.
Colts Key Matchup: Wayne vs. Sanders
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