Linebacker Burning Questions Heading Into 2016 Training Camp

Intro: We are less than one week away from the Colts heading to Anderson for the start of Training Camp. What are the “Burning Questions” at the linebacker positions going into 2016?

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INDIANAPOLIS –Where will the sacks generate for the Colts in 2016?

That is a common inquiry directed towards new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino.

The linebackers will certainly factor into the answer of that question this season.

With Training Camp now less than a week away, our "Burning Questions" series analyzes the linebacker position.

  • How much does Robert Mathis have left in the tank?

The 35-year-old showed more than enough dominant pass rushing traits towards the end of 2015 to indicate he can still "quarterback hate" effectively.

A 14th NFL season is approaching for Mathis and he still has the ability to be a disruptive edge presence.

In 2015, Mathis' 7.0 sacks were the 10th most among 3-4 edge rushers (per Pro Football Focus).

However, his 558 snaps played were the 28th most among the same group of players.

With playing time expected to increase for a now fully healthy Mathis, him in the double-digit number for sacks is not far fetched at all.

Mathis showed moves late last season that you just don't see from guys in their mid-30s.

In the last 16 years, only two guys in the NFL, age 35 or older, have recorded at least 10.0 sacks in a season.

That group could very well see Robert Mathis join them this season.

STAT TO NOTE: The 118.0 career sacks for Robert Mathis are the most in Colts' franchise history.**

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  • Who starts next to D'Qwell Jackson at inside linebacker?

After last year's offseason where Nate Irving and Sio Moore saw hardly any reps, for two vastly different reasons, they were all over the field during this offseason program.

With D'Qwell Jackson resting a hamstring injury, Irving and Moore received plenty of first-team run in the spring.

Come Training Camp in Anderson, those two will be in a head-to-head battle to start next to Jackson.

ACL recovery for Irving kept him sidelined for nearly all of last year's offseason work with the Colts.

Irving has dropped more than 20 pounds, changed his number, and certainly has the look to a guy who can play multiple downs at inside linebacker.

The last time Irving entered a season healthy was 2014, when he started for a top-five defense in Denver.

Moore was acquired by the Colts just prior to the start of last year's regular season.

With Jerrell Freeman and Jackson entrenched at inside linebacker, Moore's 2015 playing time was scarce in Indy.

The Colts consider Moore a potential future piece to their defense with a serious opportunity waiting at Training Camp.

If it's Irving or Moore in the starting 11 come Week One, they will be replacing a four-year starter in Freeman.

STAT TO NOTE: D'Qwell Jackson has started 80 straight games, the fourth highest among any NFL linebacker.

  • What young pieces do the Colts have at linebacker?

Of the Colts' top six linebackers going into Training Camp, four are at least 30 years old (Erik Walden, Trent Cole, D'Qwell Jackson and Robert Mathis).

Then you have the 28-year-old Nate Irving and the 26-year-old Sio Moore.

The Colts would love to see some youth emerge at both the outside and inside spots.

At inside, fourth-round pick Antonio Morrison is the name to watch.

Like Moore, the Colts believe Morrison is a part of their defensive future, but the rookie was unable to participate during the team's offseason program due to a hamstring injury.

This piece gives you a glimpse of why the Colts are eager to see Morrison in pads.

Outside linebacker will have to rely on some more unheralded guys to infuse the young talent off the edge.

Seventh-round pick Trevor Bates saw some first-team reps in sub packages back in the spring.

Undrafted free agent Curt Maggitt has an intriguing resume.

No matter what happens in 2016 at outside linebacker, pass rusher is still an area to address next offseason.

STAT TO NOTE: With back-to-back seasons of at least 100 tackles, Antonio Morrison became the first Florida player to accomplish that feat since 1992-93.

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