Earlier this week Andrew looked at the Colts' rookies so far this year, asking who the best one has been. While my answer would be Jack Mewhort at left guard (largely due to the role he has played as well), we absolutely must give a lot of credit to outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome - who on Monday night had his best game as a pro yet.
Newsome, the team's fifth round draft pick out of Ball State, had a very strong camp and it was expected that he would get some reps as the team had to play without Robert Mathis for the first four games of the season. Mathis was lost for the season before he even got onto the field for a regular season game, however, and suddenly it became even more important for a team effort to replace him. Jonathan Newsome has stepped up in a limited role and helped pressure the opposing quarterback.
According to Pro Football Focus' snap counts, Newsome has played exactly 200 snaps through the first 9 games out of a total 590 possible - that's just 33.9% of the defensive snaps. Despite that, he has made an impact and in fact only one player on the team has more sacks than he does (Bjoern Werner has 4). Newsome has notched 14 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. He has two other quarterback hits and seven pressures (per PFF).
The pass rush for the Colts has truly been a team effort, as ten different players have recorded a sack and then six different players have at least three sacks. One of those with three sacks is the rookie Newsome. On Monday night against the Giants, Newsome recorded the best game of his career, not only playing the most of any game so far (46 snaps) but also recording 7 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. He was a big part of the Colts' pass rush on Monday night and it was just another encouraging sign from a player who has been getting some pressure in limited work during the first half of his rookie season.
"There's a reason we took the kid because of what we saw on his tape coming out of Ball State," head coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week. "He's playing well right now. He's taken advantage of his opportunities. He's practicing well, putting the time in, putting the time in in the film room. It's showing up on game day. To have the numbers that he had [Monday] because when you lose guys, having Robert (Mathis) out obviously and then when (Erik) Walden goes down, it's nice to know that you've got a young guy that's stepped up and played well. I think he had six or seven tackles, two sacks and the forced fumble. It seemed like he was all over the place."
A teammate of Newsome's, Bjoern Werner, knows what it's like to play as a rookie pass rusher, and he had a lot of good things to say about the fifth-round draft pick. "I'm proud of him," Werner said Tuesday. "He's learning a lot, even with some guys being out but he's still learning from them. He stepped up, he had a great game, like seven tackles, two sacks and he put the pressure on. It's great to see young guys. I'm a young guy too, but great to see rookies doing such a good job [Monday]. Zach Kerr too playing a great game. If it can come from every angle, it's going to help this team win games."
In Werner's rookie season a year ago, even as a first-round draft pick, Werner managed just 2.5 sacks all year. He has shown much improvement this season, but in just nine games as a fifth-round draft pick Newsome has already exceeded Werner's rookie total. And for the Colts, that's a good thing.
The pass rush has been coming from all over for Indianapolis. Guys like Bjoern Werner, Cory Redding, Erik Walden, D'Qwell Jackson, and even rookies like Zach Kerr and Jonathan Newsome have all been producing in pressuring the quarterback. With Robert Mathis out, that's really the only option they have, and for the most part so far this season, it's working. And so far this season, it's been very encouraging to see Jonathan Newsome's progress.
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