There are plenty of reasons for the Indianapolis Colts’ failures to this point in the season. The offensive line has been inconsistent, the secondary is allowing far too many yards and there’s a valid argument the linebackers could be the worst collection in the league — just to name a few. However, quite possibly the most disappointing performances after four weeks are those of Robert Mathis and the pass rush as a whole.
Even Sunday, against one of the worst offensive lines in the league, the Colts struggled to create much initial pressure on Blake Bortles at all. The Colts managed 3 sacks and 7 QB hits, yet only two of those sacks resulted from a solid pass rush — as opposed to good coverage, or a Bortles scramble — and the same can be said for the majority of the hits on Bortles.
Throughout the past several years the Colts have brought in a host of “pass rushers” attempting to kick-start consistently getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Jonathon Newsome (a fifth-round pick by the Colts), Lawrence Sidbury (FA signing), Bjoern Werner (first-round pick in 2013), Shaun Phillips (FA signing), Trent Cole (FA signing) and a bevy of others have failed to make any sort of significant impact in this area.
But Erik Walden, the one guy who was brought in for exactly the opposite of rushing the passer and was widely considered to be the worst free agent signing in years at the time, has become the only option for the Colts.
With all of these flops, the tried-and-true Mathis is supposed to be the guy the Colts can count on, right? Well, that would be nice — but unfortunately, no. Through four weeks Mathis has a grand total of 4 tackles, ZERO sacks and 2 QB hits, and he didn’t even make it into the box score in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos.
Mathis didn’t play in the preseason at all, he looked to be having a good time during training camp (take from that what you will) but wasn’t impressive, and we were told to “come to the game” when Mathis’ health and preparedness was questioned after the third preseason game.
But has Mathis been to those games? Everyone understands that he’s no spring chicken anymore, that his body needs the rest during the season. But why is not taking any preseason snaps a great idea for a guy preparing for his 13th NFL season?
Following the game, Mathis was asked about his poor start to the season;
And the fact of the matter is he’s not holding up his end of the bargain, but to be completely fair, neither is anybody else aside from Walden — and especially the front office. Look, it’s not like Mathis all of a sudden took everyone by surprise that he was going to be 35 this season.
In their tenure, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano have drafted three edge rushers; Werner, Newsome and Trevor Bates. Werner was one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory for the Colts, Newsome far outplayed his draft stock in 2014 and Bates has yet to see the field in the regular season.
So, what’s the backup plan? Rely on Henry Anderson, David Parry and Kendall Langford to create all of the internal pressure on every down when that’s not the design of this defense, and to cross their fingers that a combination of Walden and Akeem Ayers can rack up at least another 10 sacks throughout the season? Let’s hope not.
Whatever the plan is, I’d be in favor of activating Bates — because why not, at this point — and removing from the lineup Josh Ferguson, who provides nothing more than junk-time receptions, as well as finding a way to get T.Y. McGill back on the game-day roster.
The Colts need something to stick, and it starts with Mathis. They simply cannot wait for him to become effective, their season is on the brink of disaster. It’s not that he’s just been unable to complete a sack either. He’s getting dominated on the line of scrimmage, he’s lost a couple steps which allows marginal offensive linemen to shut him down, and he’s ineffective in coverage as well.
Mathis is either going to have to miraculously, and quickly, acquire the fountain of youth or the Colts coaching staff is going to find themselves obligated to find another approach to forcing pressure. 7 sacks in four games is not going to cut it.