Key Matchup: Jackson versus Stokley

Wide receiver Brandon Stokley returns to the RCA Dome on Sunday wearing a Denver Broncos uniform. Greg Talmage explains why the slot receiver is likely to face Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson -- and what each one needs to do to come out ahead on in this key matchup.

Former Colt Brandon Stokley is now in Denver trying to reprise a role he played so well (when healthy) as a member of the Indianapolis Colts … slot receiver extraordinaire.

Brandon is off to a very nice start in Denver with 9 catches for 144 yards and 1 touchdown. On Sunday, he'll' be looking to add to those numbers against his former team. Last week, the Houston Texans had some success attacking the Colts pass defense by finding those soft spots in the middle of the field.

Expect Stokely and young quarterback Jay Cutler to attempt something similar.

Brandon is quick, runs crisp routes and has the field intelligence to get open. Add in the fact that he spent the last four seasons as Colt and knows firsthand where the holes are in the Colts' coverage and he could have a good day on Sunday. 

Brandon Stokley
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Success by Stokley over the middle is a win-win situation for Denver because the more success the Broncos have over the middle, the less safety Bob Sanders will be able to focus on stopping the run. That, in turn, should open some deeper holes and lanes for the Broncos running game as the game wears on.

The duty of slowing down Stokley will fall on Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson. Although he's the starting right corner, when Denver goes to a three-receiver formation the Colts will replace a linebacker with nickel back Tim Jennings.  And they'll slide Jackson inside to cover Stokley with Jennings taking over at RCB.

In this matchup it'll be important to watch the line of scrimmage. Jackson is a physical cornerback with the strength to knock Stokley off his routes. But the Colts cornerback lacks the speed and fluidness to stick with Stokley in man-to-man coverage. That's also where Brandon's top-notch route-running could also present problems for Jackson.

So it all boils down to the line of scrimmage. If Jackson can get his hands on Stokley and slow him down, he should be able to hold Stokley in-check. But if he can't get Stokley off his routes and is instead is forced to chase Denver's slot receiver around the Dome all afternoon, Stokley should have another very solid performance in Indianapolis.

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