Part 2 of 2: The Colts/Titans game is unique in that it will feature two on-the-field matchups between former Colt teammates. These players have previously battled each other in Colts practices and training camps. To read Part 1, click here.
The NFL is a copycat league, so you better believe the Tennessee Titans cornerbacks will follow a game plan very similar to what the Green Packer corners did last week against Indianapolis. WRs Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison were totally frustrated by the Packers' tight coverages.
Colts QB Peyton Manning is expecting to see plenty of physical man coverage again this week. "Of course Nick [Harper] is a physical guy, very good athlete," Manning said last week. "[Cortland] Finnegan is extremely quick and is a guy who's very confident in his abilities, as he should be; he makes a lot of plays for them. He's a physical guy. So two excellent cover corners, which gives them a lot of flexibility to the coverages that they want to play. It's nice to be able to play man-to-man knowing you have two excellent cover corners like they do."
Nick Harper makes a ply on the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe earlier this season
Although the Titans corners will want to jam and play plenty of press coverage, they will also play a lot of two- and three-deep zone schemes. In fact on several occasions you'll see CB Cortland Finnegan jam his man, but the other cornerback — Nick Harper back in a zone.
Harper is in a unique situation this week, because he knows his opponent so well and his opponent knows him so well. For nearly five seasons, Nick Harper was the Colts starting LCB and Marvin Harrison's practice buddy.
Nick has had a bit of rejuvenation in Nashville, but, like Marvin, is hearing whispers that his age is catching up with him. Harper was 25 when he came into the league and as a result is older than most eight-year veterans.
ColtPower Analyst Brad Keller makes an excellent point about this matchup in his scouting report, saying "Harrison will be matched up against Nick Harper and, as any Colts fan will tell you, man coverage against quality receivers is not Harper's long suit." Brad also notes that the Manning-Harrison combination should have success against Harper by "running in and post routes".As a whole, what should we expect for the Manning-Harrison combo this week? That's the million dollar question. At times, the duo has showed signs of getting in sync — just like we are used to seeing — but at other times, they look flat and aged.
Harper is a seasoned veteran who has been a consistent starter in this league since 2002. He knows what he can and cannot get away with against Harrison. And while the Packers CB Charles Woodson was able to frustrate Harrison's timing and routes with physical at-the-line jamming, Harper likely realizes that might not be the best approach for him against Marvin. He'll likely show plenty of press coverage at the line, in hopes of toying with Manning's initial read, but quickly backpedal as close to the snap as possible.
There is also a huge X-factor in this match-up: familiarity. Harper and Harrison likely know something about the other's tendencies that no one else opposing them this season will know. That's what should make this matchup so interesting to watch.
These two matched up once last season in Week 2. Harrison had a solid day, with six catches for 87 yards, with 40 of those yards on one catch. Besides that big play, Harper did a nice job of keeping Marvin out of the endzone and in front of him that afternoon. I'd imagine Nick would be happy if Harrison's stats were similar to that again this year.