Last year in a Week 4 contest against the Indianapolis Colts in Nashville, then rookie Adam "Pacman" Jones made his first professional start and manned WR Reggie Wayne. In that game, Jones drew two costly penalties and gave up a touchdown to Wayne.
Afterwards, Colts QB Peyton Manning was asked if he willingly picked on Jones. He replied, "Pacman was on Reggie but the safety was there to help most of the time. They didn't put him in single coverage a lot. With a receiver like Reggie it doesn't matter who is covering him, though. He is going to get open. I wasn't trying to pick on a rookie, I was just trying to get the ball to the right guy.''
So this Sunday we'll see how these two match up against each other nearly one year later. On the surface, Reggie Wayne presents matchup problems for Pacman. Jones' lack of ideal size can be a problem against the league's bigger receivers. And while Wayne is not big in the sense of height like a Matt Jones or Plaxico Burress, he plays big by being physical and using his body to get position. This is especially effective on quick slants or comeback routes where he can use his frame as a shield and outmuscle defenders.
In his first season, Jones was a brash rookie, often guilty of thinking he was better than he is. He got beat nearly everyway possible. He played too far off receivers at the line allowing too many plays underneath, but also gave up his fair share of deep balls. Things seem to be changing this year though as Jones had an outstanding preseason. However, that early success has not shown itself yet in the regular season. Until Jones shows more consistency, Titans fans will continue to call the seventh pick overall in the 2005 draft a mistake.
Reggie Wayne comes into this game with a heavy heart following the funeral for his brother this week. But as he showed last weekend, a week after hearing of his brother's death, he draws life and energy from being around his teammates and on the football field.
Wayne is an excellent natural athlete, but not a receiver you would label a burner or consistent deep threat. He does not get open because his speed, he instead 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. His maturation as a receiver has been fun to watch. He's refused to rest on his laurels and has improved each year.
Don't be fooled by the fact that Reggie Wayne nor Marvin Harrison has caught a touchdown in the first four games. The duo ranks first and fifth in the NFL in receiving yards respectively. Is a matchup against Jones just what the doctor ordered for Wayne to end the scoring drought? I don't know.
But I do know that this matchup should be very different compared to a year ago. The Titans will likely opt to help another young cornerback, Reynaldo Hill, against Marvin Harrison before helping Jones with Wayne. So except when Tennessee plays double safeties, Wayne should actually see his fair share of single coverage opportunities against Jones. And that makes this a key matchup to watch on Sunday.
Colts Key Matchup: Wayne vs Jones
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