Mano A Mano: Wayne vs. Reeves

The Texans added cornerback Jacques Reeves in the offseason to help improve their secondary, but Houston will have its hands full with the Colts receivers this week. Greg Talmage takes a look at Reeves' style and how Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning can take advantage of this matchup.

The Houston Texans knew this off-season that CB Dunta Robinson would likely miss the first half of the 2008 season due to knee and hamstring injuries, so to help lessen the loss, they signed CB Jacques Reeves, an unrestricted free agent from the Dallas Cowboys.

At the time, Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak noted that Houston had "targeted Reeves from the beginning," and that defensive coordinator Richard Smith, defensive backs coach Jon Hoke and assistant defensive backs coach Ray Rhodes all wanted Reeves. Kubiak added, "We're happy to get him. There's no doubt we've upgraded our team. There's no secret our secondary is an issue and we really believe he's going to help us."

Jacques Reeves draws a pass interference call against Reggie Williams
AP Photo/Phil Coale

Has Reeves helped soften the blow of losing a cornerback of Robinson's caliber? Yes and no.

The Texans have a very respectable ranking of ninth in the NFL against the pass. But opposing quarterbacks are completing over 65 percent of their throws against Houston and their secondary has only one interception (by Reeves) in three games.

As a whole, the 5-feet-11, 188-pound corner has struggled overall in coverage and the high completion rate can be attributed somewhat to Reeves' style of play.

He tends to play with more cushion than most and trusts his anticipation skills more than anything. He is only comfortable in zone coverage and can be very limited in man-to-man schemes. Look for Reggie Wayne and Colts QB Peyton Manning to exploit this space issue with some quick slants and even quick tosses at the line.

Reeves shows very good straight-line speed and can run alongside most receivers in the league, but is plagued by below average stop-and-go quickness. Because of that, skilled route runners will give him problems. Indianapolis will test these tendencies to move the chains. It's a lot easier to get 7 to 9 yards a pop against Reeves than something deeper downfield.

To channel Hank Stram, you can "matriculate the ball down the field" against a zone corner like Reeves. Patience will most definitely be a virtue for the Manning-Wayne combination on Sunday.

In 3 games, Wayne has caught 18 balls for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. Solid numbers, however, Reggie has been guilty of a couple uncharacteristic drops. I doubt that's a trend. And that it can most likely be explained away as due to a lack of practice and preseason time between Wayne and his quarterback.

One thing the Colts have done more with Wayne this season is move him from the outside to the slot when featuring three receiver sets. This was particularly successful in the second half of the Colts' Week 2 at Minnesota when TE Dallas Clark was out.

Clark was back for the Colts Week 3 game against Jacksonville and as a result they only showed 3 receiver sets in third-down passing situations.

If Reggie is again moved to the slot when Indianapolis goes 3-wide, that will place WR Anthony Gonzalez in an outside matchup against Reeves, expect Manning and Gonzalez to follow the same plan of attack against Reeves.

If Reeves is giving up first downs on third-and-five or more, look for him to lessen the cushion which could possibly open things downfield, even more so when you combine that with the fact that Safety C.C. Brown is out this week. Brown is the Texans' best coverage safety and his absence will be felt Sunday and for the rest of the season.

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