Replacing Jackson: Pound Cake to Relay Plays; Antonio Morrison Expected to Start
In the aftermath of D’Qwell Jackson‘s 4-game suspension, the Indianapolis Colts will now be heavily relying on young inside linebackers, namely Edwin ‘Pound Cake’ Jackson and Antonio Morrison, to replace both the veteran’s production and presence within the defense’s starting lineup:
"“Antonio Morrison has to step up,” said head coach Chuck Pagano on Wednesday. “Everybody’s going to have to step up.”“Antonio, Edwin Jackson, Josh McNary, Deon King.”"
While replacing the team’s leading tackler will no doubt be challenging, a young linebacker like Pound Cake will now be tasked with also relaying the defense’s play calls from the sideline to his teammates using the helmet transmitter that is ordinarily worn by the elder Jackson.
The role is still new for Pound Cake, but not completely unprecedented, as the young inside linebacker actually relayed plays for the Colts defense during this past Monday night’s win during situational defensive packages:
"“That was very, very important,” said Edwin Jackson via the Indianapolis Star’s Stephen Holder. “That was my first time actually getting the calls and relaying it to the defense, them having that confidence (in me) to say, ‘Hey, trust this guy to get the call and get it to the defense.’”"
Something his head coach also acknowledged on Wednesday:
"“Well, he (D’Qwell Jackson) hasn’t played every snap and last week we had a package where #53 (Edwin Jackson) was the one linebacker in the game, so he (Edwin Jackson) called the defense,” noted Pagano. “So #44 (Antonio Morrison), #53, will now assume those roles.”"
It’s interesting because with the elder Jackson out, one would’ve thought that the Colts may have logically given the helmet transmitter to the defense’s elder statesman, veteran safety Mike Adams, who has 13 years of NFL experience.
Perhaps it’s because the Colts wanted a defensive player who’s closer to the line of scrimmage like Pound Cake than a safety.
Perhaps both Pagano and defensive coordinator Ted Monachino as protégés of the Baltimore Ravens are ‘old school’ and are used to having their inside linebacker call plays like Ray Lewis infamously did for such a long period of time for their former franchise.
Perhaps the Colts coaching staff simply trusts Pound Cake.
Whatever the case may be, it looks as though Pound Cake and even Morrison to an extent will be relaying the defensive play calls to their teammates on the field come Sunday afternoon.
It’s interesting because the 1st-year Pound Cake with all of 12 games and 4 career starts under his belt will now be the veteran of the Colts starting inside linebacker corps with the rookie Morrison expected to receive his 1st career start alongside him.
Colts fans over the past few weeks know what to reasonably expect from Pound Cake: speed, energy, physicality, and reckless abandonment–flying all over the field.
However, it could be Colts fans first extended look at Morrison, who’s played mostly on special teams as of late and in some limited action defensively for the team earlier this season:
"Aug 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenjon Barner (34) is hit by Indianapolis Colts linebacker Antonio Morrison (44) in the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sportss“I mean really he’s played a significant role for us on special teams, and that’s it,” added Pagano on Morrison’s limited experience. “We’ve got a small sample size. He got some significant snaps last week. Got on the field there late in the game. Made some plays.”"
Like the elder Jackson, Morrison tends to struggle in space–especially in coverage, given his lack of premier foot speed. However, he’s a run-oriented inside linebacker, who hits downhill and could prove to be useful against the run situationally:
"“Antonio’s tough,” added Pagano on Morrison’s skill-set. “He’s smart. He knows the defense inside and out. He’s a downhill, tackle to tackle, sideline to sideline run-and-hit guy. He’ll do a great job.”"
With limited experience playing alongside one another and their newfound responsibility for relaying the sideline’s play calls, communication figures to key for both Pound Cake and Morrison.
Something that each is already well aware of to help lead the Colts defense on Sunday respectively:
"“We have to have great communication,” said Edwin Jackson via Colts.com’s Kevin Bowen. “(D’Qwell Jackson) takes authority when he’s on the field and we have to emulate that when we get out there.”"