Mano A Mano: Jennings vs. Jackson

Colts cornerback Tim Jennings has found himself a marked man at times this season. Colts President Bill Polian was even if asked on a recent radio show if opponents were targeting Colts third-year cornerback. Besides answering the question, Polian also gave a bit of a progress report on Jennings' development as an NFL corner.

Here's what the Colts president had to say: "I don't think people are necessarily targeting him. It's more that they go to the player on their team they feel is most advantageous for them. Some of it is scheme in the sense that if we're playing deep zone and we're backed off and they get a height mismatch, they might take advantage of that. But his play has improved pretty dramatically over the course of the season since he is playing full time for Marlin Jackson. His man-to-man skills always have been good. I think his tackling has improved. I think his route recognition has improved. His ball reaction has improved. He really has gotten a lot better and that is due in large measure to his dedication and to a lot of great work by Rod Perry, our defensive corner coach. I think Timmy has had a good year and has improved a lot from the start to now."

Jennings has made his share of plays this season
Rick Stewart/Getty

So, after a rough start, Jennings has emerged. However, like any player getting their first share of regular snaps, he's had his share of ups and downs.

Jennings should again expect to be targeted, and he's got a heck of a challenge this week with Chargers wideout Vincent Jackson.

Jackson is developing into a top-tier receiver and is playing well at the right time. During the Chargers four-game winning streak to close out the season, Jackson has been the Chargers' leading wide receiver in three of the four games, putting together totals of 18 receptions, 395 yards and two touchdowns.

Jackson, a fourth-year player out of Northern Colorado also has exceeded his career highs in every major receiving category.

While Jackson's 59 receptions rank second on the team (Antonio Gates leads with 60), his 1098 receiving yards far outpaces any of his teammates (Gates is 2nd with 704 yards). Jackson averages nearly 19 yards per catch and is the team's best deep threat, an impressive statistic on a team that has the top passing game in the league in terms of average gain.

Indianapolis usually does a good job of preventing many deep balls. QB Phillip Rivers, though, loves to sling it deep and the Chargers will attempt to use the height advantage of a 6-foot-5 Vincent Jackson to their advantage against the 5-foot-8 Jennings. It's imperative that Jennings keeps Jackson in front of him. He should also expect plenty of safety help over the top, especially if San Diego is gameplanning some deep jump balls in Jackson's direction.

Besides the size differential and not letting himself get out of position, Jennings also must watch the mental lapses. In Week 16 against Jacksonville, Jennings allowed a long 18-yard pass on third-and-1 with 11 seconds in the first half to set up a late field goal.

Jennings knew Jacksonville was looking at the sidelines. He just failed to execute. Things like that can't happen on Saturday night.

Another thing to watch is if Dungy decides to move Jennings from the right to left and actually plays Hayden on Jackson. The Chargers other outside receiver, Chris Chambers, has been missing in action most of the season, so Dungy might be tempted to move Hayden from the left to the right-side and have his top corner man against the ever improving Jackson.

Or, if Jackson and Rivers are having success against Jennings, look for the Colts to make an in-game adjustment and flip corners.

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