J.P. Crawford: What is the strongest aspect of the Colts defense this season?
ET: That's really a tough call, because they have a good balance of
talent on defense. Their secondary, a real weak spot just a few seasons ago, has
really come along with the infusion of young talent like last year's top pick,
Marlin Jackson, who is their nickel back. But I'd have to give the edge to the
defensive line, which includes two of the top pass-rushers in the league, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The Colts have switched Mathis to an every-down
defensive end instead of using him as a pass-rush specialist. Raheem Brock, who
used to split time with Mathis at LDE and then slide inside to DT on obvious
passing downs is now playing inside permanently. He's joined by returning
veteran Montae Reagor, and Corey Simon in a rotation. But Simon probably won't
play due to a knee injury that he suffered during camp.
JP: The choice to pick Mario Williams is obviously a nod to the fact that Houston must be a defensive powerhouse to beat Indy and win the AFC South. Will Manning and the offensive line have a special eye on Super Mario come Sunday?
ET: No doubt about it. The Colts have great respect for talented players, and as the No. 1 pick overall, they'll be keeping a careful watch on him. Fortunately for the Colts, he'll be lining up across from Pro Bowl LT Tarik Glenn, who should be able to hold his own against the rookie. I fully expect the Texans to test second-year left guard Dylan Gandy, who is starting again this week in place of Ryan Lilja. Gandy handled himself very well when the Giants ran some stunts to test him with their Pro Bowl RDE, Osi Umenyiora, but he'll have to be on his toes again this week.
JP: The Colts seem to have a very active injury report. Who is questionable for the game that would otherwise have an impact on the game against the Texans?
ET: The Colts still have players battling camp injuries, and the two biggest names are DT Corey Simon, who I mentioned earlier, and slot receiver Brandon Stokley who suffered a high ankle sprain in mid-August. He's hoping to be back this week, but at this point he appears to be no better than 50-50 to play. Last year's starting strong safety, Mike Doss, tried to come back from a calf injury that forced him to miss all the preseason games, but he was replaced last week in the starting lineup by rookie Antoine Bethea, a sixth-round pick out of Howard University who has just been very impressive. Doss showed up on the injury report for the first time on Thursday, so it appears that Bethea will get his second start. He's a real ball-hawk who led his college team in tackles for three consecutive seasons, and he likely would have gotten the start even if Doss was healthy this week.
ET: They've undoubtedly been working on shoring up the porous run defense
they displayed against the Giants. Two factors worked against them that night,
one of which automatically disappears with a new opponent. Tiki Barber was
terrific as usual, and he sliced his way through the Colts, posting a gaudy 6.1
yards per carry average and 110 total rushing yards. The other factor that the
Colts will have to face and correct before Sunday is being a bit overly
aggressive and not covering gap assignments as consistently as needed in this defense. So discipline was likely a buzz word during the defensive
practices this week. They also needed to work on their running game, getting the
running backs and the offensive line in sync.
JP: Should Texans RB Wali Lundy have a better game against Indy's front seven compared to the game against the Eagles in Week 1?
ET: Unless the Colts do a quick turnaround this week, Lundy
should have a good day. But if the Colts offense comes out firing, scoring
fast and often, he may not get a bunch of carries as the Texans may have to go
to the air in hopes of keeping pace. I also expect the Colts defense
to come into this contest with a chip on their shoulders, so that's going to
work against Lundy a bit as well. They weren't happy with their performance on