On Monday evening, the Colts will embark on the most difficult portion of their 2009 schedule. They return to a place that holds many great memories for Colt players and fans alike, but the atmosphere will be a little more hostile than it was during their last visit to Miami.
The Colts have been one of the better road teams in the NFL going 41-15 during Tony Dungy’s tenure, and will look to continue that success under Jim Caldwell. To do so, the Colts will need to weather the storm early as the home crowd is sure to be rowdy as it will be the home opener for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins will look to keep the Colt defense off balance, and should give the Colts their first real look at the Wildcat offense. If the Colts can get any kind of push up the middle from the tackle position, the speed the Colts possess on the outside may prove to be too much for this gimmick offense to be successful. The Dolphins would like to control the clock and minimize the number of opportunities they give Peyton and the Colts offense, and will turn to their running game featuring both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to do so.
The Colts defense will benefit from the return of Ed Johnson to the starting lineup, as he brings more athleticism to the DT position. This is one of the deepest defensive rosters the Colts have had in a few years, so look for them to substitute frequently as they try to stay fresh in what is likely to be a humid September evening.
Look for the Colts to try and put the ball in the hands of Chad Pennington, and force him to try and beat them in the passing game. The Dolphins have a solid group of players to distribute the ball to in the passing game, as Bess, Ginn, Camarillo and Fasano (TE) all averaged ten or more yards per reception during the 2008 season.
Defensively, Miami will line up in a 3-4 and look to put a LOT of pressure on Peyton Manning. Jason Taylor and Joey Porter will be the main focus of that pressure, as they collectively have recorded 204.5 sacks during their illustrious NFL careers. For the Colts to be successful, they will need to take advantage of the aggressiveness of the Miami defense, and use it against them.
The Colts rushing attack may not put up big numbers on the ground, but look for them to be very active in the passing game – short swing passes can be very effective on a defense rushing hard at the QB. The Colt TE’s could also have active roles releasing from the line of scrimmage and creating mismatches with the Dolphin DBs. Donald Brown’s ability to hit the hole quickly, could produce some big gains at times, if the O-line can create some seams.
Peyton will have a new target to throw the ball to after adding 6’4”, 220lbs Hank Baskett to the roster earlier in the week. After losing Anthony Gonzales for the next six to eight weeks, the Colts were looking to add a veteran presence to an otherwise very young receiving corps. Baskett has played the last four years in Philadelphia, and should keep defenses honest, preventing them from double-teaming Reggie Wayne on the other side. Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon will both get plenty of playing time as Baskett becomes more acquainted with the offense, but Peyton will look to get Baskett involved very quickly.
Dolphins hang close early, but Colts have too many horses and pull away late for a 20-10 victory.