By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts know that they’re going to have their work cut out for them Monday as they take a 1-0 record to Miami for a nationally-televised matchup with the Dolphins (0-1).
It will be Indianapolis’ first trip back to Land Shark Stadium, formerly known as Pro Player Stadium and Dolphin Stadium, since the team won Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4, 2007.
While the memories of that game figure to bring back pleasant memories for the coaching staff and players, knowing that the Colts will be facing an improved Miami team should temper those thoughts a little bit.
“I don’t think this [visit to Miami] is going to shape up as quite the pleasure trip that the last one was. The Miami Dolphins have a good football team. [Dolphins team president] Bill Parcells has done a great job building that team,” Colts team president Bill Polian said earlier this week.
“And we’ve traditionally had trouble with [Miami quarterback] Chad Pennington [dating] back to his days with the [New York] Jets. So this will be a tough one, I’m sure.”
Continuing to improve the running game will be key this week. The Colts displayed flashes of being able to move the football consistently on the ground during last week’s season-opening win over Jacksonville.
But there were also those short-yardage situations (a third-and-one and two fourth-and-ones) that Indianapolis failed to convert that must be addressed before heading to Florida.
“We’ve got to run the ball better. There’s no two ways about that. That means that we’ve got to be really honed in our schemes, make sure that we’re coordinated in terms of hole entrance for the running backs. Things of that nature. And we’ve got to be stout and strong because the opposition is stout and strong,” Polian said.
“On defense, we face a similar attack [as Jacksonville] in that there is a play action attack because of they run the ball so well. And we’re going to get two running backs [Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams], not one, both of whom are big, big guys and are extremely fast. The thing that they do that perhaps Jacksonville didn’t do as much of is that they’re going to give you all kinds of disguises with the [offensive] formation. Motion. People moving around. Different formations. They probably only run five or six running plays but they run them out of about 30 different formations. So you’re going to have a hard time recognizing and adjusting to that. You can’t be fooled by it.”
That’s where the team’s Wildcat formation comes in. Once joked about, it’s quickly become the offense du jour both on the collegiate and NFL levels.
“Initially, it was something that was foreign to most teams in preparation. It caught [teams] a little bit by surprise, I think, more than anything else. It does create a few problems if you haven’t worked with that type of offense before. We had some experience with it because [Tennessee quarterback] Vince Young, when he was first with [with the Titans], they ran a version of that where it was more dangerous because he could throw the ball,” said Colts coach Jim Caldwell.
“Miami has [former West Virginia quarterback] Pat White. They certainly have that ability as well. We will have to look at that situation and prepare for it. This sport is data-driven. We take a look at all the data and the percentages that they work it. We try to make sure we can match up and how much we prepare for it. It wouldn’t make sense if they did it one percent of the time and we practice for it 98 percent of the time. We try to balance things out as much as we can.”
And then there’s Pennington. He’s been a thorn in the Colts side since coming into the league 10 years ago.
“[He’s] as good as there is in terms of knowing where the open man is and getting the ball there. So we’ve got to drive hard on the ball and make sure that our [pass] coverage is good. Because if there’s an open guy, he’ll find him for a big gain,” Polian said, remembering the Pennington-led 41-0 demolition of Indianapolis by the New York Jets in a 2002 AFC wildcard game (19-of-25 passing for 222 yards and three touchdowns).
n Roster moves — The Colts have activated defensive tackle Ed Johnson on Wednesday from the team’s exempt-list. Johnson served a one-game suspension last week for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy last year. Indianapolis also waived backup placekicker Shane Andrus and rookie linebacker Cody Glenn.
Andrus handled all of the Colts’ kickoffs and placements during the preseason as starting placekicker Adam Vinatieri recovered from offseason knee and hip surgery. Glenn, who had been claimed on waivers from the Washington Redskins on Sept. 6, was inactive for the Jacksonville game.
Also, as of Wednesday afternoon, the Colts had yet to make a decision whether to bring in another veteran wide receiver or to stand pat with the current group that includes starter Reggie Wayne, second-year wide receiver Pierre Garcon, rookie Austin Collie along with practice squad members Taj Smith and John Matthews.
Wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez suffered a sprained right knee in the first quarter of last week’s game with the Jaguars and did not return. He is expected to be sidelined indefinitely