INDIANAPOLIS – With Robert Mathis suspended for the first month of the 2014 season, the Colts pass rush was going to be scrutinized from every angle.
That month could turn into a much longer period of time.
Mathis, the Colts franchise sack leader, injured his Achilles while working out in Atlanta. The injury will be evaluated by team doctors when No. 98 returns to Indianapolis on Tuesday.
"Really a devastating blow for Robert, his family, our team and our organization," Chuck Pagano said on Monday evening.
"This one stings."
It goes without saying that this has the potential to be a crushing blow for a Colts pass rush searching for guys to emerge with the constant threat in Mathis nowhere to be found.
Last year, Mathis' 19.5 sacks led the NFL with the rest of the Colts combining for 22.5 sacks.
The amount of game changing plays Mathis has piled up in his 11-year NFL career is enough for a lengthy highlight film.
Unfortunately, there's a possibility none will be added in the 2014 season.
"You've got your warrior, your leader in the locker room, your leader of the team and that presence alone--it was missed last night and now it will be missed," Pagano said.
Eyes were already fixated on 2013 first-round pick Bjoern Werner this offseason knowing that a heavy burden would be placed on his shoulders during the month of September.
Werner has welcomed the extra attention, saying that his play in his rookie season wasn't at the level he expects.
In the regular season opener, Werner had three tackles as the Colts defense struggled to get a consistent pass rush against Peyton Manning.
Erik Walden, the starter opposite Werner, did record a sack on Sunday night but the Colts finished the night with just one takedown of Manning in 36 pass attempts.
Moving forward, guys like rookie Jonathan Newsome, Cam Johnson (who left the Denver game with an elbow injury) and Andy Studebaker will provide the depth behind Werner and Walden.
The common theme around the Colts locker room on Monday afternoon was the mantra of "Next Man Up" that has now turned into "Next Men Up."
It will take a collective defensive effort for a unit to try and replace a Hall of Fame candidate.
The defenders know how difficult of a task they could now face without one of the NFL's most disruptive edge rushers.
-Can Werner live up to his first-round billing?
-Will Walden's offseason goal of improving his personal pass rush come to fruition?
-Can the Colts interior establish some inside pressure?
-Will the team look elsewhere for edge rushers?
So many questions for a Colts team tested in a massive way early in 2014.
"We've got more than capable guys that can get it done or else they wouldn't be in this locker room," veteran linebacker D'Qwell Jackson says.
"They've overcome a lot to get to this point. We trust our guys. We trust the guys next to us. That's one of the mantras in this building. Do your job and trust the guy next to you."