Facing new coordinator, Manning expects surprises

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

As Peyton Manning looks at what the Jacksonville Jaguars did in the preseason, he knows the biggest thing the Colts need to prepare for while considering an opponent with a new coordinator is being able to adjust.

“Preseason you study it and prepare, but you’ve got some guys in the preseason who aren’t even on their team,” Manning said in his Wednesday conversation with Indianapolis reporters. “No. 29, Brian Williams, was in there every preseason game, so you’re studying him, and he gets released the other day. That’s why you take preseason with a grain of salt. You study what you see, but you have to be prepared for some different things that might happen once the regular season gets here.”

The typical advantages of opening against a familiar opponent are diluted some by a change at defensive coordinator. Mel Tucker has replaced Gregg Williams for the Jaguars.

At least when the Colts are getting ready to face AFC South rivals Tennessee and Houston, they’ll have some regular-season film that shows what the new coordinators there are doing. Jacksonville Sunday will be much more of an unknown.

“So when you see you’re playing Jacksonville in the opener, sure, you have their preseason to study, but you realize they are going to have some things that they did not show in the preseason,” Manning said. “They are going to have some things they work on every day in practice and their minicamps and OTAs that they probably did not reveal in the preseason. So, in a lot of cases there is some unfamiliarity there.

“Even though they have the same players it is a new scheme. They have a new defensive coordinator and it’s some different looks you’re seeing on film. It’s a little bit of preparing for what you see on film, but also preparing for the unexpected and being prepared to adjust to that during the course of the game.”

Certainly Manning has great experience in leading an offense and making those sorts of modifications as a game plays out.

He’s politically correct when he says it, of course, but reasonable too when he talks about expecting what we get out of so many NFL games -- a tight game decided late, by a handful of plays.

“You have to expect crazy things to happen in this opening game,” Manning said. “We just hope to make the plays that sway the game our way. Most games are going to come down to four or five plays, and we hope those plays can go our way.”

In Jacksonville, Jack Del Rio said much the same thing as his team prepares to face the Colts with a new defensive coordinator, Larry Coyer.

“I think one thing we all know is that coming out of preseason you’re going to have some unscouted looks,” he said. “We just need to play our game and be ready to adjust to anything that we may get. I think you get that across the league. There’s potential for unscouted looks early in the season, and that’s just something you have to respond to.”