Marvin Harrison is a special football player, a quick-strike type who can score from anywhere on the field in one play. The future Hall of Famer is arguably one of the best route runners in the history of receiving. This makes him nearly impossible to cover one-on-one. He gets out of his breaks quickly, has excellent double moves off the play action, sells his routes amazingly well and sets defenders up. And don't think for a minute that Marvin will give away any type of hints. His body language is as consistent as his routes.
The man Marvin will be trying to set up this week is Bengals cornerback Deltha O'Neal. O'Neal is in the midst of a Pro-Bowl caliber season. His six interceptions for the year currently leads the NFL.
Cincinnati has a lot of faith in both of their starting corners, O'Neal and Tory James, and will not hesitate to allow either one to cover an opposing receiver alone from time to time.
But against a receiver like Harrison don't expect the Bengals to leave O'Neal to fend for himself frequently. O'Neal is having a breakout season and playing with far better control, improved technique, and recognition skills. That's allowing him to maximize his speed and athletic ability. But he's still not a shutdown corner.
Another key reason why Cincinnati will want to give O'Neal help with Harrison is because of his tendency to gamble. You don't lead the NFL in picks without having a gambler's mentality. Nonetheless, O'Neal still gets himself into trouble by taking chances and guessing on routes. He will bite on pump action. And although he is quick, he is not fast and can have trouble recovering. So over the top safety help can be essential when his gambling or biting nature gets the best of him.
The hardest thing for any person defending Harrison, especially those seeing him for the first time, is dealing with his exceptional route running. Just when you think you have an inkling about his tendencies, he does something that will totally surprise you. He lures opposing corners into a false sense of security.
Will O'Neal fall for the trap? If he does, you better believe Peyton Manning will be there ready to pounce.