AFC South: Chad Clifton


With Kerry Collins on the roster and poised to take over as the primary backup to Peyton Manning, Curtis Painter fared much better working with the Colts’ offense.

In a 24-21 loss to Green Bay at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday night, the Packers utilized one defensive element Manning typically helps Indianapolis avoid: the blitz.
Manning is masterful at making teams pay when they subtract from coverage to add to the rush. But Green Bay rolled out a steady stream of blitzes, many of which featured cornerback Charles Woodson, with no fear of such repercussions from Painter.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Painter
AP Photo/Michael ConroyWithout Peyton Manning, the Packers blitzed again and again on Curtis Painter.
Indy’s offensive line is still being sorted out, and the group didn’t do particularly well or get particularly good help in minimizing the pressure. Painter didn’t get hit so much as he had to hurry, and he was hardly at his best in such circumstances.

Desmond Bishop got flagged for roughing on one blitz, and Painter threw a ball away when Woodson looped between left tackle Anthony Castonzo and left guard Joe Reitz untouched. Another time, the quarterback made a nice throw to Reggie Wayne, who had a favorable matchup as Woodson came untouched.

No. 2 running back Donald Brown actually did reasonably well in blitz pickups, I thought, managing to keep himself between rushers and the quarterback on a couple of occasions. Still that rusher frequently contributed to a closing pocket.

The right side of the starting line, guard Ryan Diem and tackle Jeffrey Linkenbach, struggled with Clay Matthews, whose speed was more than they could handle.

Not every team is equipped to blitz the way the Packers are. But if it’s Collins instead of Manning on Sept. 11 in Houston, odds are the Texans will blitz more often and with less fear. And the Colts and Collins will have to be prepared to handle it.

Some other thoughts on what was nearly a rare Colts preseason win:

  • While Painter was better, it took a blown coverage that left Wayne wide open for a 57-yard touchdown to get him going. His second touchdown pass, to Chris Brooks, was very nice. Earlier Painter suffered because of a drop by Wayne and another by Pierre Garcon.
  • Ernie Sims was active in a lot of first-half action, his first since he signed with the Colts. Tommie Harris played for the second time, and made some plays with a sack and a tipped pass.
  • Jermichael Finley's touchdown catch on Pat Angerer was great. Angerer was tight but not turned. There aren’t many linebackers who could make a play against that.
  • According to CBS, Robert Mathis injured his hamstring in the first quarter hamstring and did not return. His counterpart at end, Dwight Freeney, made things very difficult on Green Bay tackle Chad Clifton, bulling over him a few times before using the patented spin move.
  • Diem, who false started too much last season at right guard, got called for one. An injury forced him from the game for a time, but he returned to action. Mike Pollak stepped in briefly. Jeff Saturday was the lone offensive lineman who didn’t play into the third quarter, as Pollak replaced him. Then the second-team offensive line was, left to right, Michael Toudouze, Kyle DeVan, Jamey Richard, Mike Tepper and Ben Ijalana. Richard was flagged for holding but it was declined.
  • I expect good things out of rookie running back Delone Carter, mostly because I very much like the idea of Carter. This team needs a short-yardage goal-line back. He was hardly working against front line defenders, I understand. But he not only got a tough yard -- converting a third-and-1 when there was nothing there -- but he had a couple of nice longer runs. A lost fumble was overturned by challenge, and a wide run with a spin move suggested he can be more than just a between-the-tackles pounder. He did look lost in one pass-protection situation.
  • Defensive back Chip Vaughn was waved off the field by Jim Caldwell after back-to-back penalties. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty worth 15 yards and a taunting penalty worth 11 yards, the Colts gave up a touchdown and a two-point conversion, lost an onside kick and saw Green Bay move to a game-winning field goal. Vaughn will not have a good weekend. And the Colts just about refuse to win in the preseason.
Aaron Kampman was a bit reluctant, but played along.

Kampman

Kampman


On the day ESPN.com’s Power Rankings took on left tackles, I asked the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end for his top 10.

He considered, and came back to me with five, including a three-way tie at the back of his list. He included only players he’s faced, but offered some commentary on each.

Here’s his list with those comments:
  1. Ryan Clady, Denver -- “I played him last year. We were both coming off injury. You watch the film on him, he’s just a good young tackle with a really promising career ahead of him.”
  2. Jordan Gross, Carolina -- “I’ve played him a handful of times. I like that even as they had such a tough year, he still played hard and was technically sound.”
  3. Jason Peters, Philadelphia -- “He’s got good feet. He does a nice job moving laterally and in recovery.”
  4. Michael Roos, Tennessee -- “They get the ball out fairly quickly. But he does a real nice job understanding angles.”
  5. Joe Thomas, Cleveland; Chad Clifton, Green Bay; Jake Long, Miami -- “Thomas has a great ability when he gets beat to recover. He’s got longer arms and athleticism to recover and push you by. Clifton’s been doing it for a long, long time. Against every big opponent he always stayed pretty clean. Long I played only 10 snaps against in the preseason. He’s got a good set. It’s all about angles. Not getting too deep or too shallow and keeping your man in front of you with your shoulders square. He does that.”

Why not 10 left tackles? Kampman said it’s just tough to differentiate that many guys, emphasized that all the guys he mentioned were all very close in talent, didn’t want to talk about guys he didn’t face or know and said judging a left tackle is closely tied to the speed with which a team’s quarterback gets the ball out of his hand.

“Look at how long a guy has to protect,” he said. “That’s the secret. If the ball is out in under 2.5 or two seconds, a lot of it doesn’t matter. I’ve beaten guys clean and the ball is already gone.”

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