Colts Key Matchup: Wayne versus Daniels

The biggest challenge of the day for Miami and their struggling secondary will be how to slow down Peyton Manning if their defensive line can't get adequate pressure on the Colts quarterback. Greg Talmage breaks down one of the key matchups that will impact the game.

In this week's segment of Behind Enemy Lines, Ed Thompson asked Dolphins Digest's Alain Poupart, "What matchup are you most concerned about that you think the Colts could exploit?"

Alain's response, "Oh, that's easy. The Dolphins secondary isn't very good to begin with, and now starting cornerback Andre' Goodman and backup cornerback Eddie Jackson have been put on IR after being hurt Monday night. Unless the Dolphins get in Peyton Manning's face on Sunday, he might throw for 500 yards."

This week's edition of Pro Football Weekly echoed the same sentiment saying "The experience and ability of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne could be trouble for Miami's young DBs." So which receiver/corner match-up should be most closely watched? I always tend to think you need to examine the new guy. This week 2nd-year corner Travis Daniels will be starting in place of an injured Andre Goodman and draw the coverage assignment of Colts wideout Reggie Wayne.

The Dolphins trust their front four to get adequate pressure on a quarterback. This allows them to use their safeties to help in other places -- and this week to more than likely double the Colts' outside receivers. I expect Dolphins defensive coordinator Dom Capers to do all he can to get pressure on Manning in order to help his young corners in coverage. Capers will likely use all kinds of pressure packages from different areas of the defensive scheme in attempt to keep the Colts pass protection guessing.

Miami's Travis Daniels (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Travis Daniels played for Dolphins head coach Nick Saban at LSU, so the coach is very familiar with the skill set of his new starter. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds Daniels has good corner size. He plays with good recognition skills and shows solid awareness and range when in a zone. His height and leaping ability will also help him adjust in deep zones.

He is more quick than fast. So a zone is probably where he needs to be scheme-wise. He isn't very smooth or fast and needs more experience and technique refinement. He has an upright pedal, struggles to bend and lacks fluid stop-restart ability -- which has a negative effect on his closing speed. The part of Reggie Wayne's game that will give Daniels the most trouble will be his route running.

Just like his counterpart, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne has developed into a very solid route runner. He reads, adjusts, and will locate "soft spots" in the zone. He knows how to use his frame to get positioning against the corner and shield the defender from the ball. Because of this, the Colts love to run some quick outs, quick slants and curl routes with him -- especially on the three-step drop.

Manning is going to test Daniels, especially if he sees the youngster in single coverage. With Daniels' suspect range and recovery speed, they should try something deep. Watch this matchup closely, especially on a play-action or fake.


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