Of concern for Seattle is that CB Marcus Trufant is on the PUP list and of Seattle's top three corners — Ken Lucas and Josh Wilson — are nursing injuries and questionable for Sunday. If given time, Peyton Manning will take advantage of mismatches in the secondary and pick apart a second-string secondary.
Seattle has shown the ability to get pressure with their base defense, but its linebacker corps is also a very good blitzing unit that can effectively come from all angles — off the edge or up the middle. Now. blitzing Indianapolis is a bit of a double-edged sword because no quarterback recognizes the blitz and audibles into successful play better than Manning.
So far this season, the Colts' offensive line has done an outstanding job picking up the extra rushers and giving their quarterback that additional second to find the opening or single-coverage mismatch. So where and who will Seattle look to get pressure and how do the Colts match up respectively?
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Under first year defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's new scheme one key cog is the left defensive tackle. They depend on the left defensive tackle to collapse the pocket and get pressure up the middle.
"That's a big position for our defense," Bradley told the Olympian. "The three technique (pass-rushing defensive tackle) has to create a lot of indecision. He's [Brandon Mebane] a guy who we ask to penetrate and cause disruption. And he's lost some weight and become more athletic by doing that. But he's got to be a staple on that defensive line. A guy that we count on to play that position and play it well."
Mebane was not drafted to play this spot on the line. He played the nose last season, but struggled. So this off-season the signed Colin Cole to play at nose tackle in Seattle's 4-3 defense. Mebane took the change in stride and lost 25 pounds to get down to 304.
"I feel comfortable in this new role," Mebane said. "I'm excited to get going. I'm trying to calm down and keep from getting real anxious. But I'm happy. I don't have any complaints. I really can't complain about nothing. I just have to just do my job and execute my assignments."
Mebane has one sack and a few pressures under his belt in two games (he missed Week 2 due to a calf injury), but is healthy now and not even listed on the current injury report. This week Mebane will be matched up, in most blocking scenarios, against what has so far proven to be the weakest link on the Colts' offensive line—right guard. As ColtPower Analyst Brett Mock noted: "Mike Pollak was the biggest weakness on the offensive line [against Arizona] allowing pressure up the middle, resulting in a Manning interception."
This wasn't the first time this season Pollak had struggled holding up at the point against a good pass rushing interior lineman. Pollak is never going to overwhelm his man, so the key against Mebane is too stay true to technique and not let himself get in an uncompromising position. If not Pollak can get off balance and overpowered rather quickly.
Pollak's inconsistency caused senior offensive line coach Howard Mudd to make a change at RG against Arizona. Last week, Mudd started rotating Pollak and Kyle DeVan at right guard. That's obviously not a good sign for Pollak. Just like Arizona with DT Bryan Robinson, Seattle likes to line the other DT, Colin Cole over the center at the nose. This, unless a team slides protections often, just by simple geometry creates plenty of one-on-one situations between the LDT and RG, which was something Arizona was able to exploit last week.
Will the rotation continue this week? Was that meant to serve as a wake-up call to Pollak? Is DeVan the Colts new starter at right-guard? Only Howard Mudd and the Colts brass know those answers.
No matter who lines up at RG either has an interesting challenge this week. The folks over at FieldGulls.com explain the benefit of Mebane's passing rushing ability and how that allows the defense to show various looks: "Cole was playing nose tackle and to his left were Brandon Mebane and LE Lawrence Jackson. RE Tapp was well outside Orlando Pace's left shoulder — on an island. Seattle used its size and Mebane's pass rushing ability to create a 4-3/3-4 hybrid look. The look worked to perfection. The Bears line struggled to control Seattle's powerful left-side line and that allowed Tapp to overmatch Pace one-on-one," they wrote.
One benefactor of the added focus on Mebane has been second-year defensive end Lawrence Jackson. Jackson has been pleasant surprise, with three sacks in three games. That kind of performance is what the Seahawks thought they were getting when drafting Jackson. While at USC, Jackson amassed an impressive 30.5 sacks in 51 games. Last year after selecting him with the 28th pick in the 2008 draft, Jackson was quickly elevated into a starting role. He, however, struggled getting acclimated and only had two sacks all season.
Now, with a year under his belt and a new running mate on the left-side things seem to be looking up for Jackson again. "Lawrence played very well," head coach Jim Mora Jr. said after he had a sack and consistently strong play in the opener against St. Louis. "We have kind of been waiting for that. All of us have been waiting for that. (Now) you have to validate it, you have to do it again and again and again. But just to see him play physical, play aggressive, have a sack and have an impact on the game . . . that's a real positive for him and for us."
Jackson followed that up with a two-sack performance in Week 2. Jackson has also been helped by the off-season acquisition of Cory Redding. Redding is the official depth chart starter at LDE. So rotating in at left end has allowed both players to stay fresh and active.
Diem and Johnson
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Colts RT Ryan Diem is the man who must slow down the both men on Sunday. Jackson has the kind of quick first step that will give any offensive tackle problems. Diem struggled against speed early in his career and still will from time to time. But now does a nice job of using his size and span to still keep the defender away from his quarterback. Diem may look beat off the snap initially, but recovers well enough to gather himself and make up. Jackson is giving up nearly 50 pounds to Diem, so if Diem can get his hands on him, he should be able to dictate and control the point.
Another key edge matchup to watch will RE Patrick Kerney against LT Charlie Johnson. Kerney is a seasoned veteran who knows every move in the pass rushers handbook as well as anyone. He can come off the edge with speed or strength. He has the speed and motor to just beat his man and the muscle to force the blocker back into the quarterback. This is his 11th season in the league, so signs of slowing down are starting to creep up. Nonetheless, he is still a relentless pass rusher when on the field and will stay fresh because of a rotation with DE Darryl Tapp.
When blocking Kerney, Johnson needs to stay patient and not get caught up in reacting to each of Kerney's actions. Overcommiting can be a problem. If Johnson can use his athleticism, maintain body control and positioning, he should be able to gain the leverage advantage. Johnson has been a pleasant surprise and almost flawless since taking over at left-tackle. The Colts need that to continue.
Right and left ends are not the only place where you'll see rotating lineman, however. Bradley explained that "the Seahawks also will rotate guys in more, with young players like [Darryl] Tapp, Lawrence Jackson, Red Bryant and Nick Reed, along with veteran Craig Terrill, seeing regular playing time to keep the first unit fresh."A lot of guys have to set their ego aside," Bradley said. ‘They're not going to play 60 plays a game. It's going to be by committee. It's going to be all of those guys who are going to get an opportunity."
Another way to keep the Seahawks pass rushers at bay is to simply run the ball. Something Indianapolis is doing better each week. Last week, the Colts gained more than 100 yards for the first time this year, totaling 126 yards. And in Week 2, the team averaged nearly 6 yards a carry. Those recent developments combined with the fact that Seattle is ranked 25th in the league wide at stopping the run should.
According to Football Outsiders, the Colts are having their most success running the ball either off left tackle or up the middle. Indianapolis has started having success running the ball each of the past two weeks. Seattle brought in NT Colin Cole to help against the run and clog the middle. Cole is stocky with a low center of gravity, so he anchors well. The ability of Jeff Saturday to move him off the point will go along way in Indianapolis having success running the ball up the gut again this week.
Also, if Kyle DeVan once again rotates with Pollak at RG look for the Colts to test some more runs than usual in that direction. Mudd will want to see exactly what he has there.
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