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14 for '14 Number 4: Outside Linebacker Robert Mathis

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In the 14 days leading up to the Indianapolis Colts reporting for training camp on July 23, we will count down the 14 most important players to the Colts success in 2014. Today, we look at number 4, outside linebacker Robert Mathis.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There is only one reason that Robert Mathis isn't higher on our list of the most important players to the Colts in 2014 (and even then I considered placing him higher), and that reason is this: Mathis will miss the first four games of the 2014 season.

Due to a violation of the league's substance abuse policy that happened as a result of Mathis and his wife trying to get pregnant, Mathis was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season.  That suspension raised Bjoern Werner on our list to number eight and dropped Mathis down a spot or two to number four, but that doesn't mean Mathis will be any less important to the Colts when he is playing than he was last year.

Last year, Mathis racked up a franchise-record, career-best, and league-leading 19.5 sacks while accounting for 46.43% of the team's sacks, a crazy high number.  Basically, Robert Mathis was the Colts pass rush in 2013, and they didn't really make any moves to inspire hope that would change in 2014.  Instead, the hope has to be that Bjoern Werner will continue to improve and develop off of a disappointing rookie season, and while I think he can do that, it still leaves a ton of pressure on Mathis to produce.  Not only did he lead the league in sacks with 19.5; he also led the league in forced fumbles with 8.  He made too many crucial plays to count and played a major part in several Colts wins, such as the big win over the Broncos or the massive comeback over the Chiefs in the wild card game.  Mathis, a team leader and inspirational presence for the team, is going to be just as important to the Colts in 2014, though at the same time we need to be careful not to expect 19.5 sacks out of him again.  He can do it, sure, but to expect that is asking too much.  It's fair to expect that Mathis will be a great player who leads the Colts pass rush and helps to lead the Colts defense, however, and that's exactly what he will be expected to do.

He won't be around for the first four games of the season and the Colts will have to find some way to play without him, and the fact that he will miss four games is the only reason he's as low as four on this list.  Robert Mathis is incredibly important to the success of the Colts in 2014 and you could make a case for him at number two on this list - probably the spot he would have been if not for the suspension.  Mathis is such a crucial part of the Colts defense and success and there's no doubt whatsoever about his deserving this spot.

Check out our list counting down the 14 most important players to the Colts' success in 2014:

14. Pat McAfee, punter

13. Anthony Castonzo, left tackle

12. Greg Toler, cornerback

11. Reggie Wayne, wide receiver

10. Cory Redding, defensive lineman

9. Dwayne Allen, tight end

8.  Bjoern Werner, outside linebacker

7. Arthur Jones, defensive lineman

6. LaRon Landry, safety

5. Jerrell Freeman, inside linebacker

4. Robert Mathis, outside linebacker