Much has been made about the Colts' success last week against former teammate and current Saints right cornerback Jason David. If fact, the Colts threw nine balls in David's direction with seven of them going for a completion -- and three resulting in touchdowns.
Given the Colts' success against David, a lot of folks are wondering, "Will Nick Harper suffer the same fate as his former teammate?" Does Marvin Harrison present coverage problems for Nick Harper?
Of course. But don't expect Harper to have a David-esque performance against his former employer.
First off, there is a huge difference in defensive packages and formations between the Saints and Titans. Unlike New Orleans, the Titans will rarely leave their corners in single coverage. Tennessee plays a lot more zones — Cover-2 or Cover-3.
Last season, Tennessee would occasionally deviate from the zone in specific situations, especially when blitzing their nickel corner off the slot. If picked up, this can be very profitable for an offense because it usually meant one of two things:
1) A speedy slot receiver against a linebacker or safety
2) By having that safety committed to covering the slot, it would also result in one of the outside receivers being in single coverage.
So if you see the nickel/slot corner-blitzing Manning, watch the blitz pickup and subsequent downfield result. This just might present the perfect occasion to test the Harrison vs. Harper matchup.
So what about the other side of the field? Titans right cornerback Cortland Finnegan, a second-year player, was beaten deep by rookie Jaguars receiver John Broussard for a 47-yard touchdown catch last week. Or was he?
When asked this week if Cortland Finnegan was in man-to-man coverage on John Broussard's 47-yard touchdown catch, Titans head coach Jeff Fisher answered, "No, he was not in man. There was a really good throw and catch [made by David Garrard and Broussard, respectively]."
Besides it being a terrific throw and catch, Finnegan was left high and dry by safety Calvin Lowry.
Finnegan has the skills to typically handle man-to-man situations when put in them. But given that he's a tad undersized and lacks elite speed, Finnegan will struggle downfield and with bigger receivers who possess good speed. That could present a problem this week for Finnegan as he's matched up against exactly that type of receiver in Reggie Wayne.
Another factor to watch will be where the Titans corners play at the line. As Colts fans know, Harper is prone to giving large cushions at the line. This could result in Manning throwing a lot of quick slants to Harrison until Harper adjusts. Finnegan is the opposite. He likes to show more bump-and-run.
The key here is for the Titans to disguise their coverage and not become predictable, otherwise Manning will pick them apart.