As of Saturday, Robert Mathis will sit out professional football for a month. This is not an ordinary laid-back suspension – Mathis is not only suspended from playing and practicing, but from anything Colts or NFL-related. Mathis is not even allowed in the building for the next 4 weeks. Of course, we all know by now that Mathis was suspended for using the fertility drug Clomid, which Mathis was unaware was banned from the NFL. Nevertheless, our beloved outside LB will be out for the next month.
So what do the Colts do as they face the Broncos, Eagles, Jaguars, and Titans without one of the top voices on defense? Eric Walden and Bjoern Werner. These two guys have no choice but to step up to the plate and deliver results.
I look at Walden and see a player that has proven himself on the stat sheet the last four seasons between the Packers and Colts. He has even put up numbers relative to the great 98 in solo tackles and assists. In 2011 he racked up 41 solo tackles. One area of concern is his sacking ability; it’s almost seemed nonexistent. However, we could see that change since his rushing ability is what has been keeping him on the starting line up ahead of Werner. What the Colts need the most out of Walden is his experience and voice. We are lacking a chief leader on the team and Eric, though he only has one season with the Colts, has been in the league for 8 years and we need him to provide that leadership that comes along with being a veteran.
Now to Bjoern Werner – the first round pick from a year ago is finding himself being thrown into a very difficult position with a ton of responsibility. Last year it was always interesting to see Werner on the field and what the outcome would be. Although his numbers might not have been that impressive, he was always a player to look out for as he worked his way into a starting position. Werner is expected to be a starter, but that could change if he doesn’t step up his pass-rushing abilities.
The two most challenging opponents the Colts will face during the next month is Denver and Philadelphia. It was obvious that last year’s victory over the Broncos was due in large part to Mathis’ performance. So with back-to-back prime time games, we will see what the outside linebacker position really has to offer against two challenging QB’s like Manning and Foles.
Who knows? This could actually be a great thing for the Colts. We all know Mathis is going to come back with plenty of emotion and he might come back even better then before (kind of a scary thought). Even though Mathis cannot practice with the team, he is allowed to hire whoever he wants to coach him during this time, and we all know he can get the best coach money can buy.