Indianapolis Colts: Can the Defense Stymie Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars?
Last week Blaine Gabbert and the Jacksonville Jaguars' offense only managed 117 total offensive yards against Wade Phillips' 3-4 Texans defense. Not only did Gabbert come up lame with a hamstring injury, but the offense limped along badly all day with no rhythm. The team only had 35 offensive possessions, which resulted in one scoring drive and nine punts. It wasn't an encouraging outing.
This week the task may be viewed as a tad easier. The Indianapolis Colts' defense enters the game ranked 20th in total yards allowed, a far cry from the defense for the Houston Texans, which is ranked No. 1 and devoured the Jaguars' offense last week.
The Colts were much improved against the Minnesota Vikings after a horrible performance in the final three quarters of the season opener against the Chicago Bears. They held Adrian Peterson under four yards per carry and sacked Christian Ponder four times. Still, they won't match the ferocity of the Houston Texans which provides an inept Jacksonville offense a chance to recover.
The question remains: Will the Jaguars be able to move the ball against the Colts' defense?
The Colts have suddenly found a run defense holding both Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson to performances each would consider subpar. Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star notes that this defense, while conceptually different, takes an approach much like the bend-don't-break Tampa 2 installed during the Dungy years:
It wouldn't be too bold to say Redding, a 10-year veteran in his first season with the Colts, is attempting to redefine defense in Indianapolis. For the past 10 years, the Colts have played cover-2, or more precisely Tampa-2.
Reduced to essentials, it's a don't-get-beat-over-the-top scheme. It doesn't grab the opponent by the throat or the crowd by the heart. The idea is to yield yards but not points and the Colts, for the most part, played it effectively.
Will the Colts' defense dominate or disappoint?
It's key this week for the Colts to remain stout against Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew, although still improving following his holdout, has been a Colts-killer over the years.
Still the matchup is very good for the Colts provided they don't suffer from the injuries currently besetting the team. They are bad against the pass while Jacksonville is a bad passing team. They are decent against the run while Jacksonville has one of the league's best running backs. To make matters worse the team may be without Dwight Freeney again this week and possibly Cory Redding who keyed the run defense against Minnesota.
It will be up to the Jaguars to take advantage of those weaknesses along with the offense's current strengths, something Blaine Gabbert hasn't done well in his first two starts this year. Rookie receiver Justin Blackmon and new Jaguar Laurent Robinson should be Gabbert's best friends, but the two have combined for just 11 catches and 139 yards in the first two games.
While he has somehow managed to avoid throwing an interception, Gabbert has been indecisive, which has led to five sacks and a fumble so far. He's completing a very Tebow-esque 51.7 percent of his passes. Overall, Gabbert simply hasn't been good enough to lead the Jaguars offense to improve.
While neither team is much like its 2011 counterpart, Gabbert did have success last year as the Jaguars swept the Colts and improved to 7-15 all-time against Indianapolis. His late-season victory sealed Peyton Manning's fate and gave the Colts the first overall pick, Stanford's Andrew Luck.
On Sunday we'll learn if Gabbert can repeat that magic and take advantage of a weak Indianapolis secondary or if the Colts can continue to improve defensively.
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