INDIANAPOLIS –The outlook on the Colts linebacker position took a seismic shift earlier this offseason.
Even with Robert Mathis sidelined for the month of September, the Colts linebackers have the pieces in place to comprise a formidable group in 2014.
Here's a look at the linebacker burning questions heading into training camp.
How do the Colts go about replacing Robert Mathis' presence in September?
Losing Robert Mathis for any quarter of the season is significant and there are some "positives" and negatives of that stretch being during the month of September.
The "positives" center around the Colts having the bulk of their offseason program and training camp to mix and match different outside linebacker combinations.
Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner seem like they will get the initial crack with the starting 11.
Even before Mathis' suspension, Walden made it clear that he was working on his timing this offseason in trying to become more of a pass rush threat.
Werner has made no qualms about needing to make an impact in his second NFL season after he battled a plantar fascia injury in 2013.
Now, the major negative of Mathis' absence (aside from the obvious 19.5 sacks) is the Colts begin 2014 with two of the highest octane passing attacks in the NFL (Denver and Philadelphia).
Offensive coordinators and quarterbacks (ask Peyton Manning) have to account for No. 98 prior to every snap but that won't be the case in the first quarter of the season.
STAT TO NOTE: Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner combined for 5.5 sacks in 2013.
What will D'Qwell Jackson's greatest impact be with the Colts?**
The Colts defense is losing a mainstay in Antoine Bethea at safety but the unit is also losing a veteran voice.[
We know about Jackson's durability and his tackling prowess](http://www.colts.com/news/article-1/D'Qwell-Jackson-Has-Playoffs-Super-Bowl-On-His-Mind/76ff50d8-1e8f-495d-bd7d-26e1c56dfea9), but his voice will also be a welcomed addition to a Colts defense losing a veteran.
The inside linebacker position next to Jerrell Freeman was a revolving door in 2013.
Jackson is here to put that to a stop and provide stability from the epicenter of the Colts 3-4 defense.
In choosing the Colts over the Broncos, Dolphins and Titans, Jackson wanted to reach a part of the game that he has yet to experience after eight NFL seasons.
It's been eight years of starting the offseason a bit earlier then Jackson has hoped.
When the month of January comes around in 2015, Jackson has plans to still be playing a game he's suited up for nearly 100 times at the NFL level.
STAT TO NOTE: Last season, D'Qwell Jackson played 1,149 of 1,150 snaps for the Browns.
What's in store for Jerrell Freeman in his third NFL season?**
What would the Colts defense be without Jerrell Freeman?
That's a thought Colts fans should be glad they don't have to answer.
It's beyond remarkable what Freeman has done in the last two seasons, yet he still is under appreciated among NFL circles.
Freeman was a Pro Bowl snub last year after recording 5.5 sacks and eight forced turnovers from his inside linebacker perch.
Colts linebackers coach Jeff Fitzgerald loves the three-year plan that Freeman is progressing on..
"First year (Freeman) came in, nobody knew about him, learned the position, learned how to play in the NFL and did a pretty decent job," Fitzgerald says.
"Last year he showed what he's about. Last year what he did, brought a little bit of attention to himself in an individual standpoint, but made a lot of big plays for our defense. Do I think he can be beyond that? No, I don't think he can, I know he can. Has he reached the ceiling yet? No way. No way. So if we can just keep him on track and then keep him going the way he's done the last couple of years, he'll progress. He'll be where we want him to be or at least get him closer to that ceiling anyway."
STAT TO NOTE: In each of the last two seasons, Freeman has started 16 games and led the Colts in tackles.