Who Is “Next Man Up” Behind Robert Mathis?

Posted May 22, 2014

Intro: Without Robert Mathis in the fold for the first quarter of the 2014 season, the Colts pass rush will be without their biggest threat. Who will be counted on during the month of September to aid the Colts pass rush?

INDIANAPOLIS – “Next Man Up” probably does not do this situation enough justice.

The Colts defense will be without last year’s NFL sack champion in Robert Mathis for the first four games of the 2014 season.

Mathis 19.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles in 2013 not only led the NFL, but the timeliness of his wreckage changed momentum in several pivotal contests.

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky isn’t shying away from how the loss of Mathis impacts his defense come September.

“One thing about Robert, he’s a great guy, great individual, great football player, a family man and we feel sorry for him of course,” Manusky told SIRIUS XM Radio earlier this week. “We would love to have him for those four games.

“I look at it from an injury standpoint. Somebody goes down and you’ve got to replace him. It is next man up. Is it the caliber of what Robert has done over his career? No, but we’ve got to make do with what we have on the roster and go with it.”

So what do the Colts have to work with at outside linebacker?

Erik Walden is the incumbent starter opposite Mathis.

Prior to Mathis’ suspension, Walden made it clear that he needed to have a stronger impact in the pass rush game in 2013.

Who else will try and aid in the pass rush department?

Daniel Adongo:
Adongo has never played a defensive snap in the NFL but Manusky mentioned him as a guy in the mix. Adongo has said he is up to 282 pounds and there’s no question fans will be clamoring to get a look at him come training camp time in Anderson.

Justin Hickman:
Hickman missed the entire 2013 season with a foot injury. In 2012, Hickman played in 12 games (12 tackles) after piling up 27 sacks in three seasons in the Canadian Football League.

Cam Johnson:
Johnson was another name that Manusky said as a “Next Man Up” candidate. The Colts acquired Johnson via trade just before the start of the 2013 regular season and the former 49er finished 2013 with 5 tackles in 12 games played.

Jonathan Newsome:
Listed as a defensive end, Newsome might see some extended reps during the first month of his rookie season. Newsome had 16.5 sacks during his two years at Ball State but is now making the transition to a full-time role in the Colts 3-4 defensive scheme.

Andy Studebaker:
The Colts signed Studebaker in early October and the six-year veteran showed that he’s more than just a special teams guy. Studebaker also saw some defensive snaps later in the season.

Bjoern Werner:
Werner had a large media hoard around him Wednesday and he will certainly be one to watch the rest of the offseason. Bulked up and healthy after a 2013 foot injury, Werner will likely see an increased role in the month of September.

In 2013, Mathis accounted for 46.4 percent of the Colts sacks, 10 percent higher than any other player in the league.

The Colts begin 2014 with Denver (the No. 1 team in the NFL last year at passing yards per play) and Philadelphia (the No. 2 team in the NFL last year at passing yards per play).

Manusky knows what he will be up against and the planning has already begun for how to plan without the game’s most disruptive pass rusher.

“You’ve got to change a little bit, mix it up a little bit. If they are going to slide the protection to Robert because of what he did last year and what he did the last couple of years, that’s going to change their thinking going into a game plan if they are going to slide to him,” Manusky said.

“You’ve got to show them some different things. We’ve got the players in place right now with Bjoern Werner, Cam Johnson and Daniel Adongo. We’ve got to go out there and think about the situation to put them in the best situation to make plays.”

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