A Capsule Look at the Colts' Regular Season-Opener
**Indianapolis Colts (0-0) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0)
Sunday, September 13, 2009 (1:00 p.m. EDT)
Lucas Oil Stadium (63,000 capacity) – Indianapolis, Ind.
Television/Radio: CBS and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1
Jim Caldwell is hoping history repeats itself.
Eight years ago, in Caldwell's first game as the team's quarterback coach, the Colts recorded a season-opening victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Now, eight years later, Caldwell finds himself in a similar position. On Sunday, Caldwell will lead the Colts as the team's head coach for the first time. And like last time, his first game will come against the Jaguars.
After weeks of preparation in training camp and the preseason, the Colts are excited to return to regular-season play, where they hold an NFL-best 114-46 record since 1999. But their first game will not be an easy one, as it comes against a physical ballclub and a formidable AFC South rival.
"It's a very important game," Caldwell said. "Having an opportunity to open up at home in front of our fans is a real good opportunity for us. We will play a real good football team that is in our division, and it is going to be quite a challenge."
The Colts own a 12-4 edge in the all-time series, with each team recording a road victory in 2008.
With a re-tooled offense and an improved defense, the Colts are hoping a balanced attack can lead them to victory in their season opener.
After struggling with the run in 2008, Caldwell and the coaching staff are confident the Colts can turn their rushing attack around in 2009. And with any good ground games comes a sturdy offensive line, something Caldwell thinks the Colts possess.
"We have a great core of guys, it's just a tremendous group," the Colts coach said. "They've been around and understand our system very well. They've been very productive guys through the years. (Ryan) Lilja is back, (Jeff) Saturday is there with (Ryan) Diem, and the rest of the crew and they have all done extremely well."
Behind the offensive line for the Colts is the tandem of Pro Bowl running back Joseph Addai and first-round draft pick Donald Brown. Both backs ran the ball well during preseason, but Caldwell knows his team's rushing attack will be "put to the test" against the Jaguars, a team with a well-earned reputation for stopping the run.
"We feel really good about what we've been able to accomplish and our preparation has been good," Caldwell said. "But the proof is in the pudding and we have to get out there and perform. (Jacksonville) has a strong front and a very capable linebacking corps, and they defend the run very well."
Addai said he thinks the Colts' offensive line will benefit from a healthy, cohesive preseason.
"We want everybody that is a starter, that is healthy, out there, even the backups," Addai said. "We're going to need everybody to step up. I think right now the flow is kind of going in our favor, as far as the injuries and everybody being on the same page."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE JAGUARS
Unlike the preseason, when a team's main focus is improving itself, the Colts have had plenty of time to watch tape and prepare for the Jaguars.
"I've looked at quite a bit of film on them," Caldwell said. "They are just like they always are. They are a good, tough, hard-nosed football team."
"They have good balance all the way across the board," Caldwell said. "They have an effective offense, a good defense and a solid kicking game. I don't think any of that has changed."
Leading the Jaguars is veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who becomes the lone featured back with Fred Taylor's offseason departure to New England. Jones-Drew combined for 1,389 rushing and receiving yards in 2008, 328 of which came against the Colts.
"There aren't too may teams that will run the ball better than Jacksonville," Caldwell said.
In addition to Jones-Drew and quarterback David Garrard, the Jaguars added seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Torry Holt to the team this offseason.
"He's going to be a Hall of Fame guy when he retires," Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said. "He brings veteran savvy, veteran leadership. He still has some burning desire to do some things in this league, and we're really happy to have him aboard."
The following players did not participate in Friday's practice: DB-Marlin Jackson (rested), DT-Fili Moala (knee), DB-Bob Sanders (knee), TE-Tom Santi (ankle) and DB-Jamie Silva (abdomen). Moala is questionable for Sunday's game and Sanders, Santi and Silva have been declared out.
• "Another playoff. Another 12-win season. You shouldn't expect anything different. Coach Caldwell comes in with the same itinerary. Now, we just have to follow it and just follow through with it. I feel like we have the right guys in place. To me, I feel like we're as healthy as we've ever been coming out of preseason. I feel like the sky is the limit for us." – Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne on his expectations for the 2009 season
• "Just tell them to go out and play their game. The speed is going to pick up a little bit, but at the end of the day this is the game you've been playing for a long time so just let it come to you, and everything will be fine." – Colts safety Antoine Bethea on what he tells the team's rookies to expect in their first game
• "His past record speaks for itself. He's one of the premier receivers in the league. He's a guy that understands space awareness and finds a way to get open … We will have to do our job in terms of pass coverage. It is pass rush and the ability to cover your area of responsibility. Those two things will have to work in conjunction for us to make sure we handle their passing game." – Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on Jaguars wide receiver Torry Holt
STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR…
1) SOME NEW FACES IN DIFFERENT PLACES
Caldwell is not 100 percent on who will be lining up where on Sunday in regards to the Colts' secondary. He knows veteran defensive back Marlin Jackson will be available and he knows rookie Jerraud Powers is going to play significantly and might even start at corner alongside Kelvin Hayden.
"If he does start, he won't be the first (rookie) to start in this league," Caldwell said.
In fact, as Caldwell pointed out, Jacksonville starts two rookies at offensive tackle.
"It's not something uncommon. We think if he (Powers) is called upon to start, that he'll do very well. The skill level is there. He's a mature individual for his age in regards to football. He's all business. He has the making of someone that if things feel right, he'd come in and have an impact."
2) TACKLE ROTATION
With defensive tackle Ed Johnson out for the season-opener, the Colts are expected to use at least a three-man rotation in the middle of their defensive line.
Earlier this week, Caldwell said he planned to utilize Antonio Johnson, Dan Muir and Eric Foster at tackle.
"That's kind of what it looks like," the coach said. "We're going to have a rotation in there that will move some guys around a little bit. That will kind of be our plan of attack."
Caldwell also said he would not be surprised if veteran defensive end Raheem Brock slid over and played some downs at tackle.
"We have a couple little things that we do from time-to-time. Obviously, he has played in there in the past. It just depends on game situations, on what it requires and what kind of schemes we go into it with," he said.
3) NO LONGER A DECOY
Reggie Wayne smiled when asked how he liked being a decoy the past few weeks.
"I'm always the decoy in the preseason," he said.
But the regular season is different. Entering Sunday's game, Wayne and quarterback Peyton Manning stand as the most prolific active QB-WR duo in the league, meaning the Pro Bowl wideout is unlikely to receive "decoy" status against Jacksonville.
He is likely, however, to go against a fellow Pro Bowl selection: Jaguars defensive back Rashean Mathis. Whether Mathis will cover Wayne the entire game remains to be seen.
"It depends on how they view things in terms of their defensive scheme," Caldwell said. "I wouldn't be surprised if that indeed did happen."
Wayne said Mathis has not exclusively shadowed him in the past, but then again the team, "did have No. 88 (Marvin Harrison) on the other side," as Wayne pointed out.
One thing Caldwell thinks is working in the Colts' favor is the offense's versatility.
"You can't count on (Wayne) lining up in the same spot every single time," he said. "It takes very flexible individuals to perform within (our offense) because…we move them around quite a bit."
Rather than try and guess how Mathis and the Jaguars will cover him Sunday, Wayne elected to take a wait-and-see approach.
"What they do now is to be determined," he said. "We're about to find out. If he flips, then I'll flip. We'll just keep flipping. It's going to be a chess match."