"We have to be ready for the 3-4 because we play all these great 3-4 defenses? No. It's really executing," Dungy said last November. "In the first half (against San Diego), we had a little trouble. They brought some different blitzes and some things and Andrea Kremer (of NBC) was asking me on the sidelines, ‘Do you have to do this ... ?' I said, ‘No. We know what's coming. We just have to block them.' She said, ‘Well, what adjustments ... ?' I said, ‘We aren't making any adjustments. We just have to block the guys that are coming. If we block them better, we'll be in good shape.'"
It's the same thing on Monday. The Colts will have to execute. They know what's coming. They just have to block the Dolphins. Miami is going to send defenders on stunts, employ exotic blitzes, zone blitzes, and do whatever they can to confuse Colts blockers.
Colts QB Peyton Manning knows that and has his eye on two players in particular. "I think because of their personnel they are somewhat unique. What [Jason] Taylor and [Joey] Porter allow them to do from a pass rush standpoint and coverage standpoint, they are confident in [their ability] that allows them to play some different coverages. It is a 3-4 defense with some 4-down variations. Some other teams do that, but I think all defenses are unique based on the personnel. I think those two guys kind of make things go."
Manning is very familiar with both, especially Joey Porter. As a Pittsburgh Steeler, Porter had 1.5 sacks and was a disruptive force giving the Colts left side problems all day during the 2005 divisional playoff game.
Porter is coming off a dominant year that saw him amass 47 tackles, 17.5 sacks; that sack total was seven more than any other of his previous nine seasons.
On the other side, Manning and the Colts are used to seeing Jason Taylor as a defensive end. That's changed. Now the former defensive end lines up across from the tight end as a strong-side linebacker.
Even though he's one of the NFL's best all-time pass rushers and active NFL sack leader at 121.5, Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano is convinced he has the skills to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
"I think he's done a pretty nice job," second-year Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said last week. "It's an adjustment not everybody can make, but Jason is a very good pro. He's a very smart player and has done a nice job in the offseason program from a physical standpoint."
In a standard 3-4 look, the role on the strong side is reserved for pass coverage and run-stopping, while Porter's weak-side role is designed more for rushing the quarterback and piling up sacks. But Sparano said he sees a scenario unlike last year, when Porter was always the one rushing the quarterback. Taylor's presence provides lots of options.
"A year ago, we probably rushed the [weak side] a little bit more than the [strong side]," Sparano said. "Now you have this two-headed monster so you can go out there and do a little bit of both, make it a little bit more even, which helps, or we will bring them both."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell expects to see plenty of Porter and Taylor coming after his quarterback. "One of them is coming on every snap," Caldwell said last week, "and you're going to get both of them on the majority of snaps."
So does Peyton Manning. "It used to be you'd have one on one side and focus on one of them," Manning said. "Now you have one on each side, so both sides have to be on their toes at all time, be ready for those two guys."
How will the Colts block Porter and Taylor? Miami will seek to create blocking mismatches and exploit those matchups. At times in the past, Indianapolis has had trouble picking up blitzing linebackers in the 3-4 formation.
As Coach Dungy said last year and Coach Caldwell mentioned above, it's all about execution. They know they're coming; the Colts just have to locate their assignment and block.
What's been the problem? Sometimes, it's been the guards who have failed to get to the edge to block the blitzing outside linebacker when the offensive tackle stays inside to block the defensive end. And at other times it was the offensive tackles who have failed to move inside to help seal the interior.
For this watch the Dolphins left side closely. LE Phillip Merling is coming off arguably his best game as a pro. The 2008 second-round pick was all over the place last week against the Falcons, contributing four tackles, and producing at least two knock downs.Jason Taylor lines up behind Merling. ESPN's Tim Graham notes that "Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson pointed out the switch from RE to LOLB will match Taylor more often against right tackles, who generally are better run blockers compared to left tackles and whose main responsibility is blindside pass protection."
So when you see Jason Taylor moving toward the line of scrimmage watch Pollak closely. Does he pop out to pick up Taylor or dart inside to get the LE? This will tell you who exactly Howard Mudd prefers to block Jason Taylor.
Elite speed rushers like Taylor have given Diem problems in the past. Diem uses his long arms well to keep defenders outside the pocket, but has just marginal lateral quickness. Because of that speedy blitzing OLBs will give him headaches off the edge.
Merling is still a better pass rusher than run defender, so he usually will be in at LE on passing downs while DE Kendall Langford will play there on 1st downs and in run situations.
Still, as Brad Keller points out expect the Colts to favor runs to the right side as they will want to test LOLB Jason Taylor's ability to play the run at the second level.
On the other side, look for ROLB Joey Porter to seek to engage LT Charlie Johnson as often as possible. I'd expect Miami to like that matchup straight up, but Porter is also very good on stunts and delayed blitzes, where he can shoot a gap after the blockers on the left side have committed.
The matchup in the middle is also one to watch. At 310 pounds NT Jason Ferguson is not the prototypical massive interior defender. His ability to use his power to anchor in the middle against C Jeff Saturday will dictate the matchup.
He is more of a run stuffer than pass rusher. Ferguson lacks great quickness and counter abilities to consistently to collapse the pocket. That's good for Indianapolis, because they'll want their OGs to be focusing elsewhere and not helping Jeff Saturday double-team the nose.
Similarly, the same is true in the run game. If Saturday can handle Ferguson without help, that will just open more blocking options on the interior.
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