INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts 2017 Training Camp is a little less than two weeks away.
On Saturday, July 29, the Colts will report to work at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, for their first Training Camp “at home” since moving to Indy in 1984.
Colts.com continues to look at the "Burning Questions" for all position groups heading into the 2017 Training Camp.
Here's a look at the linebacker burning questions with the 2017 season nearing:
- Who will be the team's leading pass rusher off the edge?
For the first time since 2001, the Colts will begin a season without Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis on the roster.
The days of the franchise's two top sackers coming off the edge are gone.
Based off past success and the expected 2017 role, Jabaal Sheard has to be the favorite to lead the pass rushing group this coming season.
In the last two years, Sheard has combined for 13.0 sacks in 28 starts with the Patriots.
Sheard will go from spot duty action with New England to a definite full-time starter role in Indy.
Of course, the pass rushing burden can't be restricted to just Sheard.
-Will more playing time for newcomer John Simon equate to a higher number of sacks?
-Will a new-look defensive line group provide the necessary interior pressure to help in the pass rushing department?
-Will third-round pick Tarell Basham show early rush ability?
Sheard is the lead guy, but the Colts have to rely on other forms of pass rushing in order for the pressure to improve this season.
STAT TO NOTE: The Colts lost 21.5 of their 33.0 sacks from last season.
- Who will emerge at inside linebacker?
The Colts will enter Training Camp with five or six options for the two open inside linebacker spots.
These are easily the most undecided starting jobs of the 2017 offseason.
But late in the offseason we did see Jon Bostic's name start to emerge.
Bostic has 18 career starts, despite a 2016 foot injury that kept him off the field for all of last year.
After the Colts watched a healthy Bostic participate in the offseason program, the staff certainly liked what they saw.
If Bostic has one starting spot, that leaves names like Edwin Jackson, Antonio Morrison, Sean Spence, Anthony Walker and Luke Rhodes still in the mix to start.
Jackson and Morrison are the returning starters from last December.
Spence, like Bostic, is a 2017 free agent signee and brings plenty of speed to the group---something Chuck Pagano wants from his inside linebackers.
Walker is a fifth-round pick from this year and is known for his leadership.
STAT TO NOTE: Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison have combined for 12 career starts. Neither had started an NFL game before last season.
- Will any rookies earn playing time?
Coming into the draft, the Colts had needs at both outside and inside linebacker.
They took steps to address those by selecting OLB-Tarell Basham in the third round and ILB-Anthony Walker in the fifth round.
Unless Walker suddenly shines at inside linebacker, neither rookie is expected to start in 2017.
Even if Basham doesn't start, he still could play a big role in his rookie campaign.
At 6-4 and 266 pounds, Basham's size makes him attractive on run downs.
But it's the pass rushing part of Basham's game that is likely to be the ultimate deciding factor in how much he gets on the field.
If Basham shows any pass rush promise in August, the need will be too immense to keep him sidelined.
STAT TO NOTE: Only three linebackers who played last season for the Colts are back in 2017.
The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.*