Behind Enemy Lines: Part II

Eric Hartz of ColtPower.com helps explain some of the questions surrounding the Colts this week, including Peyton Manning's audible system, how their injuries affect them and what happened when they played the Bears on Sunday night. Eric Hartz of ColtPower.com and Tim Yotter of VikingUpdate.com help break down Sunday's game.

Tim Yotter: Given the Colts' struggles to stop the run last week and the fact that they are facing the league's No. 1 rush offense from 2007, how do you think they'll be able to overcome the loss of Ed Johnson?

Eric Hartz: : The cliché answer is that "everyone has to step up" and to a certain degree that's true — the Colts will have to keep their assignments, gang up and tackle as a team, hope that they can keep Adrian Peterson under control and force Tarvaris Jackson to beat them.

The real answer is that they won't overcome the loss of Johnson, because they weren't all that good against the run with Johnson ¬— as the country saw on Sunday night, when a patchwork Bears line and rookie running back gouged them. Even last season, when the Colts led the league in scoring defense, they were only 15th-best against the run, smack in the middle of the league. I expect Peterson to have a big game, and the Colts will actually have to outscore the Vikings if they want to win.

TY: The Vikings' passing game struggled against physical cornerbacks on Monday in Green Bay. How would you rate the tandem of Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson, and do you think Hayden will play with his hamstring injury?

EH: : I'd rate them up there as one of the top tandems in the league, and certainly one of the up-and-coming ones. Hayden is a ball hawk, and Jackson is the physical one, but both are solid all-around corners — I'd take Hayden if I had to pick one, however. They are very good with taking away primary routes from receivers.

As far as Hayden's injury, the first thing you learn about following the Colts is it's impossible to figure out what their injury situation truly is. Hayden was poked in the eye during Sunday's game against the Bears, but now seems to have developed a hamstring injury in practice. He sat out on Thursday — but he practiced Friday.

TY: How big of a loss would it be to not have Jeff Saturday and Dallas Clark in the offense, and what are your expectations for their availability?

EH: : We saw in the latter half of the 2006 season that the Colts' offense needs Clark to be at its most effective. Maybe the same is true of Saturday, but his fill-in, Jamey Richard, did surprisingly well for a seventh-round rookie in his first game.

Truthfully, I don't expect either of them to play Sunday. Saturday has practiced this week, but I think they will want to take it easy with him, especially since they were talking about him possibly missing the entire season a little over a week ago. Clark's injury isn't very serious, but he hasn't practiced all week. Long story short — we'll know at kickoff.

TY: Much of the talk this week in the Vikings locker room surrounds Peyton Manning's theatrics at the line of scrimmage. How much of what he does there are fake audibles and how much did the Colts do that in the preseason with Jim Sorgi at the helm?

EH: : For all the theatrics, the Colts' offense is pretty simple — they don't mix up formations a whole lot and rarely use shifts or motion. How it works is this — offensive coordinator gives Manning 2-4 plays — maybe two runs, and two passes, or just a run and pass. Usually Manning will pick one, with the option to change to one other, depending on what he sees at the line. But much of it is window dressing, for sure — especially his practice of pointing at defenders, which is designed to keep them guessing, not point out anything his offense doesn't know.

Jim Sorgi did considerably less of this in the preseason, which I guess is just another reason why Manning is Manning and Sorgi is Sorgi.

TY: What did you see the Bears do to disrupt the Colts last week, or was that just a case of Manning being rusty without getting work in the preseason?

EH: : I think a lot of it was rust, to be honest. Manning said this week that it would be an insult to the league and the position to think he could just go out there and start picking apart defenses. But for a guy that hadn't played a real game of football since January, he was still pretty good, and I expect him to be better this week.

The Bears stacked the box against Manning, and did a nice job of keeping their hands up in the pass rush, which may have made him miss on a few throws. The bigger problem was that the Colts never really committed to the running game last week, running the ball just 15 times as opposed to 49 passes. Manning's always been best when he can play-action pass, and no one is going to believe that when the Colts are passing three-quarters of the time.


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