INDIANAPOLIS –Out with the old, in with the new.
For the Indianapolis Colts and new general manager Chris Ballard, that was the approach this offseason at the outside linebacker position, which will feature many new faces in 2017.
Gone is the franchise's all-time leader in sacks, Robert Mathis, who decided to retire following the 2016 season, as well as Erik Walden, the team's sack leader last season who was not re-signed in free agency, and veteran Trent Cole.
New to the team are expected starters Jabaal Sheard and John Simon, each of whom are entering the prime of their careers and were free agents looking for a starting job after being role players the first few years of their careers, as well as Barkevious Mingo.
Let's take a look at the total state of the outside linebacker position for the Colts entering training camp:
— Akeem Ayers
— Lavar EdwardsNOTABLE ADDITIONS:
— Barkevious Mingo
— Jabaal Sheard
— John SimonNOTABLE CAMP BATTLES:
— Deiontrez Mount
— Garrett SickelsNOTABLE LOSSES:
— Chris Carter (free agency)
— Trent Cole (free agency)
— Curt Maggitt (waived)
— Robert Mathis (retired)
— Erik Walden (free agency)
Last season, the Colts kept four outside linebackers on their Week 1 roster out of training camp: Cole, Maggitt, Walden and Mathis.
None of them will be back on the Week 1 roster this year, however.
Instead, look for Shead, Simon, Mingo and the veteran Ayers to likely get first crack at this first four spots to begin 2017, with Edwards and Mount getting in the mix, as well.
Sheard brings with him 36 career sacks, 18 passes defensed and 11 forced fumbles, and really turned it on in a reserve role with the New England Patriots the past two seasons, collecting 13 sacks and four forced fumbles and passes defensed apiece over that span.
Simon, meanwhile, has been an integral part of the defensive depth of the Houston Texans the past few seasons. He's always been a quality run stopper, but he's stepped up his pass rush, particularly, the past two years, notching 8.5 combined sacks in 2015 and 2016, despite missing five games last year with a chest injury.
Mingo, then, is a player looking to put it all together after the Cleveland Browns took him sixth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. A freak of an athlete, Mingo hasn't quite been the pass rush threat many had hoped – he had five sacks his rookie season, two sacks the next season and hasn't registered a sack the previous two seasons with the Browns and the New England Patriots – but he has 11 career passes defensed, as well as an interception.
Not to be left out is rookie Tarrell Basham, whom the Colts took in the third round out of this year's NFL Draft out of Ohio University, where he was the 2016 Mid-American Conference Defensive Player Of the Year and earned a school record 29.5 career sacks. While Basham is currently listed on the roster as a defensive end, expect him to play more of an immediate role as a pass rusher in defensive coordinator Ted Monachino's 3-4 scheme.
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