Colts Unlikely Sack Leader Ready for the Playoffs

Even without Robert Mathis, the Colts finished just one sack behind last year's team total but ranked higher in the NFL in sacks compared to 2013.

INDIANAPOLIS --- Quick. Who led the Indianapolis Colts in sacks in 2014, with Robert Mathis lost for the season with a torn Achilles? It's rookie Jonathan Newsome, the Colts 5th round pick, selected 166th overall.

His two sacks at Tennessee week 17 gave him 6.5 on the season, just ahead of OLB Erik Walden's 6 sacks. It punctuated a first professional season for the in-state Ball State product where Newsome's taken advantage of opportunities.

"I always thought I was ready from the get-go," said Newsome Monday. That's not generally the expectation from the outside of 5th round picks, but it was for Newsome. "Back in the day it was just like, 'Okay, I'm just going to go to my spot and make the tackle,' but it's more to it than that. You're setting it up for other guys to make the play, or you could be doing something so you can make the play. It's just doing your job and being where you're supposed to be at the right time."

Newsome's two sacks Sunday came in a situation where he was called upon to contribute more, with OLB Bjoern Werner inactive against the Titans. Pagano said Monday Werner is still day-to-day with a shoulder injury. So, it's possible Newsome could be called upon again for an expanded role in his first playoff game.

"To me, I've been saying it, it's all a mindset," said Newsome, when asked about having never played in the postseason. "You go in there with the right mindset, you tell yourself, 'We're not going home, we're not going to lose,' then that's exactly what's going to happen."

Newsome's 6.5 sacks are the most in a total team effort to make up for the loss of Mathis, that has resulted in the Colts finishing top-10 in the league (tied for 9th, to be specific) with 41 sacks. That's only one sack less than the 42 sacks Indianapolis had last season (good for 11th in the NFL in 2013) with Robert Mathis racking up a league-leading 19.5 sacks.

Newsome's 6.5 sacks are all the more impressive, considering he only played 37.2% of defensive snaps this season.


But Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano Monday first pointed out Newsome's development in the run game, when asked about his progress as a rookie.

"Well obviously in the run game, he's setting the edge. He's a tough, hard-nosed player. He plays with a certain physicality that you love and then he brings the pass rush ability to our defense and to the game," said Pagano. "He gives you great presence on the outside and not only setting the edge, ability to escape, get off blocks. He's got good twitch and he's got good pass rush moves and he uses his hands well."

Even though he's a little bit undersized, I think he's 245 pounds, he's able to go up against the big guys because of the technique that he's using," Pagano continued. "A lot of guys hit that rookie wall, and they go the other way this time of year. He hasn't done that. He's actually gotten better week-in and week-out."

Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson in the off-season, after the draft, recalled the pick.

"He's not one of these (just) athletes. He's a football player. He was one of our highest rated special teamers. From our perspective, it was going to be really, really hard to get someone after the third round that was really going to have a chance as a pass rusher for us. That's just how our board fell. That's how we felt as a staff," Grigson told Colts.com in May. "We needed to find a pass rusher, as part of our plan, later in the draft. (Newsome) was a guy we targeted, and we are glad we got him."

It's safe to say he's still glad about the pick now at the end of December.

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