INDIANAPOLIS --- The most prolific pass rusher in Colts history is ramping things up with each passing week, after Robert Mathis made his season debut week 2 following a grueling Achilles rehab which included ten total surgeries to repair the tendon and clear out infection.
Week 2 vs. Jets: 13 snaps (19% of defensive snaps)
Week 3 at Titans: 20 snaps (25%, 1 sack)
Week 4 vs. Jaguars: 23 snaps (29%)
"Less butterflies, and more just trying to help the team," said Mathis Monday about what he's focusing on now that he is a few weeks removed from his 618 day rehab. "Just try to help. The younger guys, give them advice. You just try to fill in where needed."
Robert Mathis has high standards though, and he is still working to reach peak performance.
"Still building, going in the right direction," said Mathis about where his game's at now after three weeks of limited snaps. For comparison, Mathis was playing about 80% of defensive snaps in 2013. "My timing's coming back. I'm feeling a little bit stronger. I feel good about it."
Timing is the big thing, and it doesn't just apply to quarterbacks and wide receivers. It's important for pass rushers as well, even for those with 112 career sacks like Mathis.
"Being a year removed from football, you kind of get the hand movements, the snap counts, getting off on the ball. It's kind of like sharpening your tools, like practice swings (in golf)," said Mathis. "Just trying to hone in on it."
For Mathis, he's developed an extensive playbook of pass rush moves. Mathis credits former Colts Defensive Line Coach John Teerlinck for teaching him "the art of pass rushing" and to "plan your work and work your plan". That's who taught Mathis to have an idea of what move he's going to unleash before he gets into his two or three point stance and have a counter move ready as well if the offensive lineman thwarts the first move.
"There's an old saying: jack of all trades but master of none," said Mathis modestly of his moves to beat offensive linemen. "You try to master two or three moves you can do in the clutch. You try to keep it not to predictable."
In 2015, Mathis has been even more unpredictable so far. Sometimes he hasn't rushed the passer at all. Some of his snaps have required him to drop into coverage, a development during the Chuck Pagano era.
"Since 2012, Chuck's first year, I'm a little bit more comfortable doing it now," said Mathis. "It was not a pretty sight back in 2012, because I was used to going (forwards) not (backwards)."
It also better disguises what the Colts defense may be bringing on each particular play.
"I like to think so. You just don't want to be a one-trick pony," said Mathis. "You want to give various looks to kind of keep the offense on their toes a little bit."
Expect that trend to continue as Mathis continues to ramp up his workload with each coming week during the season.