FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Everybody knows the pointing, shouting, hand-gesturing and even occasional kick-lining that Peyton Manning does before the snap. But how much of it actually means something and how much is just a bluff?
Jets backup quarterback Kellen Clemens said he's heard through the NFL grapevine that about 20 to 25 percent of what Manning does pre-snap has no bearing on the upcoming play. But that leaves 80 percent of it with meaning.
"Most of it is legit," Clemens said. "The stuff that he does that's fake is still fake for a purpose. He's giving dummy calls to see what our calls are. It's just a great big chess game. And he's a really good chess player."
"Unless he's doing it purposely to try to throw you off, it all has a meaning," Hartsock said.
Hartsock added that he's played in various offenses throughout college and in the NFL and has retained the most from the Indianapolis playbook. That's because the system is so streamlined and efficient, he said.
"It flows so well, it makes so much sense," he said. "Everybody looks at it and says it's so complicated because of all the gyrations he does, but it's really a pretty basic set of offensive runs and passes. It falls so much on Peyton and his ability to read defenses and exploit weaknesses in defenses. That's why it looks more complicated than it actually is."
The toughest part of playing in the system, he said, is keeping up with Manning.
"You have to be able to recognize what adjustments he makes and very quickly be able to know your assignment before he snaps the ball," he said.
Hartsock added that the Colts' offensive players usually come to the line of scrimmage with three plays at their disposal.
"The way it generally went was it was a two- to three-play check," he said. "Run left, run right, alert with a pass route. But a good percentage of the times he would just get up to the line of scrimmage and call a play after he went through a fake cadence to see if he could read the blitz package that was being run. He'd basically call a play out of nowhere. That's the thing with the language that they have is he can call all of their offense from the line of scrimmage and go from there."
It was up to the Jets' backup quarterbacks to do that this week in practice on the scout team. How was it?
"I don't know his specific words, but we're up there simulating like we're doing a bunch of the checks," Clemens said. "He uses quite a bit of the play clock. He gets up and does some cadences and tries to get the defense to tip their hand one way or another. I don't know the tips that he's looking for, but you try to use your imagination as best you can."
Does Clemens change the play at the line of scrimmage the way Manning would? Or does he stick to what's on the card he's asked to run?
"We make some minor adjustments that sometimes are appreciated and sometimes aren't," he said. "But for the most part we're just doing what they say and trying to simulate it. You can't simulate that offense, but we're trying to do the best we can."