INDIANAPOLIS – Cornerback Jerraud Powers has been an impact player for Indianapolis since joining the club as a third-round pick from Auburn in 2009.
The 92nd overall choice has started 32 career games for Indianapolis at right cornerback. He joined the club with a strong, reserved manner that Head Coach Jim Caldwell observed immediately and made him remark that it seemed Powers' maturity extended well beyond his years.
Powers has been one of a few Colts players who have appeared in every game in 2011. As the club comes off its bye week and readies for game 11, Powers is set for the stretch run. Despite the 0-10 record, Powers feels there is still much to be accomplished.
"There's still a lot of football to be played," said Powers. "A lot of guys have a lot to prove still in these last six games. A lot can get accomplished. We've got Carolina coming up. They've got a tremendous young team with Cam (Newton) leading them. Steve Smith's having another fantastic year, and they've got a good defense, so it's still going to be another good challenge."
When asked about the remaining games and it being a significant portion of the season still ahead, Powers said he will approach it as he has done throughout his career.
"Speaking for myself, I haven't looked at it like it's a six-game season," said Powers. "This is just game 11 to me. No matter if it's 10-0 or 0-10, no matter the situation, I take things with the same approach. I don't try to change anything I'm doing just because of the type of season you're having. I try to be consistent with my routine. I do the same thing each week, week in and week out. I'm not going to change my mindset thinking we only have six games left so it's a six-game season. I'm looking at it like it's next week."
Powers has totaled 43 tackles, 27 solo, in the first 10 games. He has two interceptions and six passes defensed playing in a secondary that has been nicked by injuries. Powers and free safety Antoine Bethea have been the veteran presence. Team captain Melvin Bullitt was injured early in the year, and the team has had to employ youthful players like Kevin Thomas, Joe Lefeged, David Caldwell, Chris Rucker and Terrence Johnson.
When Powers takes the field for game 11 of this season and game 33 of his career, he will be seeing a rookie quarterback for Carolina that starred at his alma mater. Powers has faced many different quarterbacks previously in his career, and he knows Cam Newton will be a formidable foe.
"He's been making a lot of noise around the league, but actually I'm very proud of him," said Powers. "He had a lot of doubters coming into the league, saying that, 'He couldn't do this,' or, 'He couldn't do that, or 'It's going to take time for him to do that.' It's still a learning experience for him, but I think he's having a lot of success and is doing a lot of things that people didn't think he was able to do. I'm proud to see that he's doing them."
With the most passing yards (2,885) in the first 10 games of a career of any NFL rookie quarterback, Newton can damage teams through the air. With 77 rushes for 411 yards and nine touchdowns, he creates big problems for a defense on the ground as well. Powers knows keeping Newton in check and maintaining specific defensive assignments is crucial.
"The pressure is that the guy can just take off and run and make a big play out of that," said Powers. "It's not any more pressure for the secondary, because our job is to cover the receivers and guys of that nature. As a defense as a whole, if it's third- and-long, third-and-short or whatever, and he keeps scrambling for first downs, that will probably be frustrating. We're going to have to come up with a great game plan to make sure that we can limit his opportunities to scramble and move around."
Though Carolina has a 2-8 record, it does possess a solid offense. The Panthers are averaging 400.9 yards per game, the league's fifth-best total. Running backs DeAngelo Williams (93 rushes, 471 yards, one touchdown) and Jonathan Stewart (83 rushes, 372 yards, two touchdowns) are two of the most accomplished backs in franchise history. They join Newton in helping the team average 128.7 rushing yards per game. Wide receiver Steve Smith has 56 receptions for 992 yards and five touchdowns, and Carolina has failed to score at least 20 points in a game but three times in 2011. Additionally, the Panthers have 58 plays this season that have gained 20 yards, a total that ties for the NFL lead.
"It's a dangerous team, with DeAngelo (Williams) and (Jonathan) Stewart at the running backs, probably (one of the) two of the best tandems in the league," said Powers. "Cam (Newton) is a young guy who is out there not knowing any better and making all the great plays just as if he is in college. You have Steve Smith, a savvy vet who knows how to play the game, has accomplished a lot of things in this league and done a lot of things. It's definitely going to be a tough challenge. We're well-rested coming off a bye (week). A lot of guys who were banged up should be healthy enough to go in and play. We should feel good about this match-up. They have a very good football team. The record doesn't balance with the type team they have. They are a very talented team, a dangerous team."
Powers takes a great deal of pride in his work. The season has not gone as wished for the players, coaches and the organization. Fans of the club have done their part with support, and Powers appreciates the dedication shown by the team's followers.
"The fans are sort of having a tough time with this because they haven't been in this situation, just as none of the guys in this locker room have," said Powers. "For us to go out there, keep fighting and keep improving and get some wins under our belt and show fans we're still out here fighting for the Colts, still fighting for you guys and trying to put on a show for you guys and that we care just like they care. For them to see that, and some fans to see that, it is much appreciated."