Quentin Groves (Getty Images)
The expected difference makers in Sunday afternoon’s clash between the Jaguars and Colts are quarterbacks David Garrard and Peyton Manning, running backs Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Joseph Addai, and wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Matt Jones among others. Which players could make a difference in this game that may not be on the tip of many fans tongues? We have the answers.
When the Jaguars are on offense:
Khalif Barnes must play well. He’s being lined up against Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, and Barnes must keep Freeney off his quarterback. If Barnes can neutralize the speed-rusher, the Jaguars will be able to execute much easier in the passing game.
Milford Brown, Dennis Norman, and Uche Nwaneri must not only beat the smaller Colts defensive tackles, but they must dominate them. If the new interior offensive line for the Jaguars can push around the Colts defensive line, it will be a big day for Taylor and Jones-Drew.
Matt Jones has been the Jaguars leading receiver, but they must get a contribution from someone else. Either Reggie Williams, Jerry Porter, or Mike Walker desperately need to step up.
Colts linebacker Gary Brackett is the emotional leader of that team and he’s one of the most underrated at his position in all the NFL. Brackett simply makes plays, and he’s going to have to make them on Sunday, as Bob Sanders will be in street clothes.
Safety Melvin Bullitt is playing the role of fill-in for the Colts, as he will try to emulate the play of reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Bob Sanders. Bullitt is a physical player, and his physicality will be tested by a Jaguars team desperate to run the football.
When the Colts are on offense:
Anthony Gonzalez is a tough matchup for any nickel corner, as he is vastly improved from his rookie season of 2007. Gonzalez is a polished route runner with deceptive speed, and he will cause problems for whomever the Jags line up opposite him in the slot.
Jeff Saturday has missed the first two games of the season for Indianapolis, but he will likely play on Sunday. Saturday hasn’t much room for error as he’s taking on John Henderson and Rob Meier, and he must return some normalcy to the great pass protection that Peyton Manning has enjoyed for much of his career.
Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves were drafted for this matchup in particular, as the Jaguars have not been able to get enough pressure on Peyton Manning. The two rookies will likely be matched up against a backup left tackle, and they must get to the quarterback.
Mike Peterson has to change his mantra of being more bark than bite. Peterson has looked old and slow, and his reputation is now greater than his play. If he wants to earn a contract either in Jacksonville or elsewhere, he needs to turn his season around beginning Sunday.
Drayton Florence will likely be matched up against either Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne. With the level of play Florence has showed since coming to Jacksonville, both players are a huge mismatch. It’s time that Florence began to live up to his contract.
Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee has struggled from time to time in Indianapolis, despite it being the home of his biggest made field goal in 2004. Scobee needs to be perfect on Sunday.
Brian Witherspoon needs to have a big return or two against a Colts coverage team that has been historically bad.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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