No Pressure for the Jags

The Jaguars enter Monday Night's game with the Indianapolis Colts as a home underdog, playing against the defending Super Bowl champs, and it will be likely that very few "experts" will be picking them to win. All of that should equal up to a loose, nothing to lose attitude from the home team.

For the Jaguars to beat the Colts, they will likely have to put some pressure on perennial Pro-Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning, and that will be no easy task.

The Jaguars defense is tied for ninth in the NFL with 15 sacks on the season, which is very solid, but seven of those came in week two against an Atlanta team with an inept offensive line, and a statue of a quarterback. As great as the Jaguars defense has played this season, they really haven't been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks without blitzing, which is something teams generally don't want to do against Peyton Manning. The Colts signal caller is often at his worst when he is forced to move his feet in the pocket, but with his quick release and familiarity with his receiving corps, Manning usually makes teams regret the strategy of bringing pressure and leaving any one on one coverage.

Peyton Manning talked about getting hit more this year than in years past–

"So far I haven't, no. Like I said, you're still trying to be on time when your decisions and receivers. Try to get open on time and the protection has been good."

Another reason you don't want to blitz the Colts is that teams rarely ever get to Peyton Manning. In five games this season, the Colts offensive line has allowed just three sacks. That's the lowest number in the league, and that's with playing with a rookie left tackle (Tony Ugoh) protecting Manning's blind side.

Peyton Manning took a few moments to talk about what it's like playing behind a rookie left tackle–

"We have certainly lost a number of guys last year due to various reasons – injures, free agency, retirement. When that's case, you're going to replace them with different guys with veteran guys in certain positions, but certainly with young guys at other positions. When that happens, you do whatever you can to help the young guys come along. Obviously, they have to grow up in a hurry and play well, but the veteran guys have to help those guys with the transition and offensive linemen have really helped Tony (Ugoh) with the transition."

Putting pressure on the Colts quarterback just became even more difficult for the Jaguars as their best pass rushing defensive end, Reggie Hayward, was just downgraded on the injury report to questionable, with a bad hamstring. If Hayward can't go, Bobby McCray will likely fill in. After having a fantastic season rushing the passer in 2006, McCray has pulled a disappearing act thus far in 2007. While starting four of the Jaguars five games this season, McCray has exactly three tackles and no sacks. What's worse is that he hasn't even been close to any opposing quarterbacks prior to the post-game handshakes, and he still struggles at the point of attack, and teams like the Colts will likely try and run directly at him. This disappearing act that McCray has pulled, comes off the heels of an offseason spent bickering about his contract. It now appears that the Jaguars organization made a solid move when they decided to let McCray play out his restricted free agency season before giving him a very lucrative contract.

The Colts will likely just try to play their game offensively, taking what the defense gives them. When teams drop seven into coverage, Peyton Manning hands to ball to a very capable back in Joseph Addai, if the Jaguars play straight up, Manning has a plethora of weapons in Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, and Anthony Gonzalez.

Colts head coach Tony Dungy talked about the Colts game plan–

"We feel like we have to be balanced to have success. They're a tough team to run the football against, no question about it. I think that Tennessee game was an aberration. I'm not sure what exactly happened in that game but we always feel like if we're not able to run the ball, we're going to have a tough time because we have to have the play action game, you have to stay two-dimensional. So I don't think we'll have a game plan where we just come down and throw every down but certainly they've been difficult for us to run on in the past."

Indianapolis now has one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the NFL, and the Jaguars will have to do something to disrupt their rhythm, either by making Manning uncomfortable in the pocket, or getting jams on their speedy receivers. If the Jaguars can't do either, what is sure to be a long night in Jacksonville will be made even longer.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of, and a regular syndicated contributor to, Sirius NFL Radio, and Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer.

Jags Illustrated Top Stories