Colts OTAs: Defensive Coaches Talk Pass Rush


One of the most important positions in football is pass rusher. Whether it is a defensive end, outside linebacker, or just a player blitzing the quarterback they can make or break a play and game.

Luckily for the the Indianapolis Colts, they have a lot of intriguing options at this position. In the Colts’ case, this means depth at outside linebacker.

The Colts could field a team with Robert Mathis (19.5 sacks in 2013 and is the franchise leader), Jonathan Newsome (who led the team in sacks last year), and Trent Cole (who had 6.5 last but 85.5 career sacks). There is also Bjoern Werner who, despite being benched last season, does have talent.

Last season, the Colts were forced to play without Mathis and it led to a blitz heavy defense that wasn’t always effective. The team ranked ninth in adjusted sack rate and finished with 41 for the season, but never had one guy who could effectively take over a game. That said, Mathis’ absence forced the coaches to be more creative as they feasted on the AFC South.

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky recently spoke with’s Kevin Bowen about all the options he has at the position.

"“We experimented a little bit last year and even the year before that,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said of the Colts pass rush.“I think the first year when we got in here you’re kind of trying to get everybody on the same page across the board and then scale back a little bit more. Then each year you keep on building it and growing it. It kind of evolves as the season goes on and as the years go on when you’re with a club for as long as we have.”"

Mathis is still recovering from his Achilles injury and there isn’t a clear timetable for his return to the field. Cole represents some measure of insurance at the position and he’s been working hard during minicamp.

Linebackers coach Brad White has been breaking down what the team has in their pass rushers. He opened with comments on Cole:

"“The first thing that jumps out at you is his motor. It is relentless, non-stop motor. He’s 10 years in the league and the ball could be on the other side of the field and he’s still chasing. It’s very Robert Mathis in that regard in terms of his energy, his enthusiasm, his intensity. Then he’s a physical presence. He’s a matchup nightmare for tight ends. He’s got the ability that can play over a guard. He’s that strong. He’s got some position flexibility to him. He’s a professional. He works at his craft to this day. When you go out to practice and you watch, you say, ‘Man that could be the hardest working guy out here and he’s almost 33 (turns 33 in October).’”"

White on Newsome:

"“The biggest thing on Jonathan is have him keep going. We’ve talked pretty closely about, ‘Hey we just want to keep progressing.’ He knows that. I think sack numbers can be over inflated, under inflated, I want to see him progress. He will be the first to tell you, there are plays that he left out on the field that with experience he can make those plays this year. Those are things that he looks at and he could have been double-digit (Newsome had a team-best 6.5 sacks last season). We’ve got to keep going and you can’t get frustrated. There are times that they just come in punches.”"

One thing that stands out from Newsome’s tape is just how many times teams completely failed to block him. He’ll have to deal with more attention in 2015, but having a better overall pass rush will help him get those simpler one-on-one matchups.

White on Werner:

"“There’s no question and we are still working to finding (a signature pass rush move). He’s got great technique. I don’t think people realized how well he played in the run game for us. He’s got really heavy hands. He can set a big tackle down. He had that stretch in the middle of the (2014) season where he was extremely productive. He’s a guy that we are really looking forward to blossom. Bjoern is going to find his groove.”"

Getting anything out of Werner in 2015 would be a boon for the team. He did excel against the run but really struggled to get to opposing QBs. Most of his deficiencies can be traced to a lack of pass rush moves and he needs to develop those and find ways to outwork whoever is blocking him.

Even without Werner, the corps of pass rushers looks much improved for the upcoming season. The Colts will find themselves with a more consistent attack in 2015.