Another day, another season-injury for the Colts. Yesterday we found out that outside linebacker Robert Mathis tore his Achilles while working out in Atlanta, ending his season. Today, we found out that outside linebacker Cam Johnson suffered a season-ending injury on Sunday versus the Broncos.
The move obviously comes at a bad time, as Johnson was one of the prime candidates to replace the injured Robert Mathis in terms of pass rush production. The state of the Colts pass rush, as we all know, stinks. I mean, it's really hard to exaggerate just how bad it is. Bjoern Werner, who is now going to be counted on to be the primary pass rusher for the entire season, managed just 2.5 sacks last year. He has looked better in training camp and preseason, but there's still apprehension about him and for good reason. Until he can actually step up in a game that matters for more than just a couple of plays here or there, he won't be able to provide the consistent pass rush that the Colts need. Rookie Jonathan Newsome was drafted as a bit of a developmental player - a guy that many thought coming out of college had a similar pass rush skill-set to Robert Mathis, but it was clear Newsome needed more work. And then he had a good training camp, and then the Colts started losing guys to injury, and now Newsome will be counted on to provide pass rush in his rookie season for a team with high expectations. Erik Walden isn't a pass rusher, but he might be one of the better options the Colts have at this point. Yes, seriously. Fans have talked about moving Josh McNary over to outside linebacker for his pass rushing, and I think that's something that needs to be seriously considered, but again we don't know whether the Colts really will do so. The defensive line is built around stopping the run and not around rushing the passer, so the best option the Colts have along the line is Cory Redding in terms of pass rush. The player who last year finished second on the team in sacks (to only Mathis) was inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, and especially now that Peyton Manning is out of the way, expect the Colts to blitz a lot to compensate for the lack of pass rush by itself. That'll likely mean that the inside linebackers, namely Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson, will be blitzing quite a bit.
Ultimately, while the loss of Cam Johnson would still have been unfortunate previously, there were some (myself included) that thought he might not even make the team out of training camp. Now, however, just one week into the season, Cam Johnson was going to have to play a big role as a pass rusher. Unfortunately, he's now done for the year.
Additionally, the Colts waived quarterback Jeff Matthews from the practice squad. The team now has an opening on both the 53-man roster and the practice squad. With reports of the Colts signing running back Dion Lewis, that would seem to fill the roster spot, while it's then likely that Zurlon Tipton would be moved to the practice squad (opening up another spot on the 53-man, though). Again, this is all unconfirmed regarding Lewis, so we'll keep you updated. What we do know for sure, however, is that Cam Johnson is out for the year (and that Jeff Matthews has been waived from the practice squad).