INDIANAPOLIS —As if Robert Mathis' 123 career sacks weren't enough, consider the fact that he earned more strip sacks, 47, than any other player in NFL history.
For John Simon, there is no better role model when it comes to learning how to rush the passer.
Fortunately for Simon and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts' outside linebackers, Mathis has been a near-daily presence at the team's facility since his retirement following Colts' 2016 season finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After 14 seasons in the NFL, all spent in Indy, Mathis knows a thing or two about getting to the quarterback. And Simon is soaking it all up.
"To be able to have him sit in your meetings and pick his brain on a daily basis, that's something that we take to heart in the outside linebacker room, and that's something that we have to continue to take advantage of," Simon said of Mathis. "Because he's done it all, he's seen it all — he knows what he's talking about."
The Colts are counting on Simon to step in at his new coach's old position and continue the high standard of excellence established at the spot by both Mathis and his former teammate, Dwight Freeney, who formed one of the more feared, and productive, pass-rushing duos in NFL history, and were key pieces to the team's victory in Super Bowl XLI.
The team almost completely rebuilt itself at the outside linebacker position this season, signing free agents like Simon and Jabaal Sheard, among others, to come in and try to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.
Mathis obviously has a lot to say about that trait, but Simon said he has taught him how to win before the ball is even snapped.
"Pre-snap reads, he has taught me a bunch," Simon said. "And having a plan in mind and having certain things that you're looking for in the offense before the snaps, before the snap even happens. Like I said, just trying to pick his brain on a daily basis and continuing to build our game as well."
Simon is also learning how to work with Sheard on the other side of the defensive front. Like Simon and his time with the Texans, Sheard was signed this offseason as a young piece entering the prime of his career with experience as more of a rotational player in some really good defenses.
Simon and Sheard were certainly well aware of each other prior to joining the Colts, but since the offseason workout program began, and continuing into Saturday's third preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have been working on being in sync with one another on the field to each be as disruptive as possible in defensive coordinator Ted Monachino's 3-4 scheme.
"I've known Jabaal for years, and had a lot of experience playing the Patriots — not great experiences — but I know Jabaal, and to be his teammate now is an exciting thing," Simon said. "I think we're out there communicating well with one another and we work well off one another."
Through two preseason games, albeit in limited snaps, the potential has been evident for the Colts' two new outside linebackers. Simon logged an interception in the first preseason game against the Detroit Lions, and then was in on a forced fumble last week against the Dallas Cowboys, while Sheard has shown an ability to commonly find his way into the opposing team's backfield.
"We communicate well with each other — he's been in the league for a while; I've been in the league for a while — so we kind of know how the game's played," Simon said. "And we're building off each other and watching film together, and just continuing to build our friendship and I think it's showing up out there on the field."
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