There's been a lot made of the Colts offensive line concerns - probably because in today's NFL offense is king and fans want Andrew Luck to stay upright. And it makes sense. But the reality is that the offensive line isn't even close to being the biggest concern this team has entering Sunday night's matchup against the Denver Broncos. No, the pass rush is the much bigger concern.
Last year, the pass rush wasn't that great. Robert Mathis was great. He accounted for nearly half of his team's sacks, however, and even with Mathis the Colts needed to get some pass rush help. Now, Mathis is suspended for the first four games of the season and they're going to have to find a way to rush the passer without their star. Against Peyton Manning, the Colts need to get pass rush without blitzing. And Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky knows what a big task his defense faces going up against the league's best quarterback without their best pass rusher.
"You want to put pressure on the quarterback," Manusky noted, "but you also want to have a good coverage standpoint from the back end. It goes hand in hand. I don't know the answer for it, but it's changing it up, working your stuff that you work out throughout the year, the last week, the last two weeks. From our standpoint, defensively if we're all on the same page, we'll have success. We've all got to be on the same page. It's usually when that one person or two persons doesn't do their job exactly right that he usually takes advantage of, and he usually takes advantage of it quite often."
Manusky was also asked about last year's game against Denver in which the Colts played well and in which Robert Mathis did a tremendous job in pressuring Manning. "I think part of it is Robert of course," Manusky said, "but part of it is also good coverage on the back end as well. I think it goes hand in hand. It always does when you talk about a sacks and percentage covering guys, it goes hand in hand. We did a decent job last year, we've got to continue to do that this year as well."
For this year's game, Mathis is out. And with Mathis out and with blitzing Manning not a great option for defenses, the Colts absolutely need second-year man Bjoern Werner to step up. "Oh, you've got to," Manusky agreed. "He's put in that position, and then we've got Cam (Johnson) behind him. There's going to be those two guys working it and rolling it. It's a situation where he's got to grasp the situation. Robert, we know Robert. He's not here right now, it's just next man up like coach always talks about. Next guy's got to go out there and perform at a high level, and he will and he has."
The Colts know that facing Peyton Manning is hard enough. "If you've got it," Manusky said when asked what the secret to beating Manning is, "then I'd pay some money for it." At the same time, the Colts know that their challenge is even tougher without Robert Mathis. They're confident in their secondary and in Bjoern Werner. We'll find out just how well-placed that confidence is come Sunday night, but one thing is for sure: the Colts pass rush (or lack thereof) will go a long way to determining the Colts' success on Sunday night.