The Arizona Cardinals look to make a statement in a nationally televised game against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night but first we check in with SB Nation's Colts' expert Big Blue Shoe of Stampede Blue.
ROTB - The Colts, much like the Cardinals, had some upheaval in the coaching staff this off season and any time there are changes at the top of a staff there will be questions heading into the season. Obviously sitting at 2-0 after two weeks is evidence that things aren't too bad but how do you feel about the first couple weeks of the Jim Caldwell era? Are there any major schematic changes, offensively or defensively, from year's past?
Stampede Blue - My initial impressions of Caldwell were that of a smart, detail-oriented guy who was due to be a head coach. So far, he is proving he can more than do the job. Players listen to hm and play hard for him. That's really all one can ask.
Defensively, the Colts are blitzing more, which the players are enjoying. But, as you likely saw Monday night, stopping the run is still a big concern.
ROTB - Peyton Manning has clearly the face, heart and leader of this franchise for the past decade and figures to be on top for the foreseeable future. While he's destined to go down as one of the most prolific passers of all time, there remains a theory out there that if he does have a weakness it's that he can struggle against 3-4 defenses. After watching him for the past 12 seasons, is that theory that you buy into and if not, does Peyton have an exploitable weakness?
SB - It's total horsesh*t (pardon my poopy mouth). People who still harp on "Peyton struggles against a 3-4" are idiots who know nothing about football. Even in playoffs loses the last two years against the 3-4 schemed San Diego Chargers, Peyton has lit them up. Ask the 2006 New England Patriots if Peyton "struggles" against a 3-4. Hell, ask the Steelers last year! Peyton went into Heinz Field and dominated the eventual World Champs.
Peyton's weakness is the weakness of all QBs: Pressure. If you get consistent pressure at him, it will throw off his timing and it will hinder his ability to score TDs. No QB can play well while being pressured consistently. Example: Tom Brady last week.
ROTB - The injury to Anthony Gonzalez has thrown a monkey wrench into the Colts plans at wide receiver but it didn't seem to effect Peyton too much against the Dolphins. Outside of Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, who is the Colts #3 option and what are his strengths?
SB -They very much like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. Garcon's 48 yard TD won the game against the Dolphins, and if you watch the play, Garcon's strength is his speed. Collie is a Wes Welker-type guy. Plays a lot of slot receiver. He runs good routes, catches the ball well. Real solid rookie WR.
ROTB - The Colts passing defense has been downright nasty through two games so far, allowing just 139 yards per game (#1 in the NFL), and they've yet to allow a passing touchdown. How much of that success is due to the fact that their opposition has been content rushing the ball versus the actual talent of the secondary?
SB - Talent. Some Colts fans would disagree, but if it were a lack of talent, Chad Pennington and David Garrard would not have sucked as much as they did in week's one and two. The Colts have the best starting secondary in football, and rookie CB Jerraud Powers is a beast! Reserve safety Melvin Bullitt is also very good. He's filling in for Bob Sanders while he is recovering from off-season knee surgery.
Indy's secondary has several very sure tacklers who play coverage well and do not allow big plays.
ROTB - I can't help but ask something regarding Dwight Freeney and his beautiful spin move. He's been somewhat out of the limelight after a couple of down years in 2006 and 2007, but with double digit sacks last year and two so far this year, he looks like he's returned to his former, dominant self. What's the difference with him right now and do they move him around in the defense or does he strictly stay on his side at defensive end?
SB - They are moving him around more this year, and are sometimes using him as a stand-up pass rusher. But, in general, they line Freeney up 90% of the time at right DE. Freeney's only real "down" year was the year he broke his foot (2007). I'm obviously very biased, but for me, Freeney is the most dominant pass rusher (and the most feared) in football. Left tackles are flat out scared to play him.
ROTB - Finally, we all know the names Peyton, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Freeney but who are some of the up and coming players that we may not know that the Cardinals should be worried about, both offensively and defensively?
SB - Well, Robert Mathis is a Pro Bowler at left DE, and the rookie RB Donald Brown is starting to show why he was taken in the first round. He is an explosive runner. I mentioned Powers earlier, but equaly good is DT Ed Johnson. Big ed is gettign his feet wet again after missing all of last season and getting suspended for one game this season.