After three horrific performances in a row and a collection of mixed results prior to that, it must…
Colts Key Matchup: Hayden vs Wade
Tennessee will run quite a few spread formations this Sunday against the Colts. One reason they opt to do this is, of course, is to potentially open more running lanes for the fleet-footed Young. Another thing spreading the field does for the Titans is it gets slot receiver Bobby Wade in the game. In last week's comeback win over the NY Giants, Wade was the Titans' leading receiver with 6 receptions for 83 yards. He's quickly becoming one of Young's favorite targets as the season progresses.
When the Colts counter Tennessee's spread with a nickel package, it will be second-year cornerback Kelvin Hayden who'll be matched up against Wade. Raw speed and toughness are two big reasons why the Colts like Hayden as the slot corner. A two-time Chicago City League Track Champion, Hayden's also a physical defender who isn't afraid to press and initiate contact at the line.
Hayden, though, is still extremely raw. His technique still needs work. Remember, Hayden is a wide receiver who converted to corner late in his collegiate career. Technique-wise, he's not very fluid with his backpedal, has trouble playing with his back to the quarterback, needs to refine his footwork, and his instincts and pattern recognition are still only adequate. These things should improve with playing time, but he usually only sees about 10-15 snaps per game.
That could change this week if and when Tennessee opts to open things up. After the success they had in the fourth quarter with a more aggressive attack, they may test it early to see if they can keep the momentum going.
Bobby Wade is a short, quick receiver who could give a young corner like Hayden problems because of his foot quickness and route-running ability. Wade is very fluid. He can change direction quickly, accelerates in and out of his cuts to get separation, sells routes well and knows how to get open.
However, Wade isn't much of a deep threat and lacks elite speed. For that reason, the Colts will likely leave Hayden in some one-on-one situations against him. They trust Hayden's make-up speed to close the difference if he initially gets beat off the line.
The bottom line to this matchup is that Wade will try to use his fluidity and feet to get the advantage in this match-up, while Hayden will count on his physicality and jam technique to dictate play. Those characteristic differences should make this a very intriguing matchup.
So why breakdown a match-up that might only occur a few times all afternoon? Because when these two line-up against each other, it should be extremely enlightening and tell us a lot about a young corner, who -- because of the contract status of those ahead of him on the depth chart -- could be a starter sooner rather than later.
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