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Updated: September 11th, 2012 12:44pm
Scouting Report: Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis still keys to Colts 'D'

Scouting Report: Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis still keys to Colts 'D'

by Sam Monson
Special to 1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Vikings will try to improve to 2-0 when they visit the Indianapolis on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Sam Monson of ProFootballFocus.com, which breaks down tape from every NFL game, takes an inside look at the Colts in his weekly scouting report:

Scheme

Gone is the Peyton Manning era of no-huddle offense and the same formation most of the time. Now here's QB Andrew Luck and the new-look Colts.

Offensively, they are a lot more formation-diverse than the old Colts, but also a lot more conservative, relying on play-action passes, man-blocking up front in the run game and far less on the quarterback pulling the strings. They will also spread the defense out with four or more wide outs, but the defense will at least see it coming before it happens and have a chance to adjust.

On defense, the Colts run a version of the hybrid front the Baltimore Ravens have been running for the past few seasons. They will switch up between three- and four-man defensive lines and can come after the passer with just base rushers or send multiple defenders on the blitz. Their standup outside linebackers are awkward dropping into coverage, and though they will do it, the Colts prefer to send them rushing the passer if they have the choice. Expect to see several overload blitzes, which will test if Ponder can diagnose them and pass into the vacated space or whether he will still try to outrun defenders instead.

Key players

The rebuilding process starts with Luck, and the team doesn't have enough talent around him to make up for any rookie struggles. In essence, the Colts will go as far as Luck takes them, and the only real help he is likely to get in the short term is from veteran WR Reggie Wayne, who played Week 1 of this season like he had a point to prove. Wayne notched 135 yards on nine catches last week and was targeted a ridiculous 18 times -- three more than any other receiver in the league, putting him on pace for 288 targets on the season. Luck will likely settle down and find other outlets, but for now, the Vikings need to clamp down on Reggie Wayne and force him to speed up that progression.

They may be in new positions in this hybrid front, but the Colts still lean on OLB Dwight Freeney and SLB Robert Mathis for their pass rush. Twelve other players in the front seven saw snaps for the Colts in Week 1, and they combined for just nine total QB pressures when Freeney and Mathis are taken out of the equation. The Colts are stronger up the middle than they have been in the past, but the threat is still on the perimeter, and if the Vikings can assign extra protection to ensure those two stay quiet, the interior should be able to handle itself.

The Colts managed to orchestrate a trade for LCB Vontae Davis from Miami, and it's probably fair to say he's still learning the new system. Davis was slow to pick things up in Miami, and in Week 1, while learning on the job, he was thrown at seven times, allowing six catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Davis has big-time talent and throwing his way is always a risk, but right now, he looks to be slowed by the thought process. The Vikings shouldn't be scared about testing him.

PFF stats

• The Colts missed 10 tackles last week in their opener against the Bears, and Vikings HB Adrian Peterson forced three misses in his limited role against the Jaguars.
• All three of Luck's interceptions in Week 1 came on passes more than 10 yards down field.
• Both of Indianapolis' starting corners surrendered 100-plus receiving yards last week, with RCB Jerraud Powers matching Davis with 104.
• Vikings RE Jared Allen was blanked last week by Eugene Monroe of the Jaguars. He should have an easier time with Colts LT Anthony Castonzo, who allowed three pressures and was one of the poorer left tackles in football last year.
• The majority of the success for the Colts run game last week came right up the middle. Forty-four of the 63 rushing yards they had came either side of center.

Sam Monson is an analyst for ProFootballFocus.com.
Email Sam | @PFF
In this story: Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson
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