Phillip Wheeler, Marcus Washington 2.0?

BBS' post on blitzing from the Tampa-2 and a comment from tim55 got me wondering on who was the last Indy linebacker to have success rushing the passer. It's no exaggeration to say that the Colts don't use their back 7 for pressure. In the 7 years under Dungy only 4 non-linemen have recorded multiple sacks in a season (two did it twice), only one of those 6 seasons totaled over 4 sacks.

Player Year Sacks
2007 Bob Sanders 3.5
2005 David Thornton 2.0
2004 Rob Morris 3.0
2003 Marcus Washington 6.0
2002 Marcus Washington 2.0
2002 Rob Morris 3.0

 

It's been 3 years since an Indy linebacker has had more than 1 sack in a season, and 6 years since a 4+ sack season from a non-lineman. The one standout season under Dungy was from Marcus Washington. Washington recorded 16 sacks in his 3 years as a starter in Indy, including 8 sacks in 2000, before departing to Washington where he recorded 19.5 sacks over the following 4 years for the Redskins. Marcus Washington is the last Indy linebacker to have success blitzing.

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With the new DC in place, who is far more prone to blitz than Meeks and Dungy, it's likely we'll see more opportunities for the linebackers to get after the QB. However it wasn't just what the linebackers did that changed under Dungy. Both of the LBs to have more than 2 sacks in a season were holdovers from the Mora era. Under Dungy the Colts drafted and played a different style of LB. Marcus Washington is 6'3" 247lbs, a far cry from the players that have been starting for Indy. Only 3 of the 11 LBs on the Colts roster are listed at over 6 foot (2 of whom weren't on the roster last year), and only two are listed at 240+ pounds. Phillip Wheeler (6'2" 245) and Adam Seward (6'3" 250) are the big LBs (with rookie Tyrell Sales the 3rd LB over 6 foot at 6'2 230).

Wheeler, who is the favorite for the starting SAM spot is the closest thing to Marcus Washington Indy's seen in a long time. They are similar in size and both played defensive end and linebacker in college in (Washington played OLB as an underclassman and DE as an upperclassman, while Wheeler did the reverse).

Wheeler seems to fit into an older mold of a Colts LB, instead being an entirely new one for the team. A big LB with extensive pass rushing experience.

 

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