Two all-time great Colts players, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, both played 19 snaps last Sunday. Freeney had just been signed by the Arizona Cardinals a few days earlier after not playing yet this season, while Mathis was playing in his fifth straight game for the Colts in his 13th season with the team.
Why wasn't Mathis playing more than that? Why did he get in on only 19 snaps? It's not as if the Colts have such a great pass rush to make him unnecessary - in fact, the Colts are tied for the second-fewest total sacks in the NFL through six weeks (with 8) and have recorded just 23 quarterback hits. This is a team desperately in need of pass rush help. And their franchise's all-time sack leader is sitting on the bench, only playing 19 snaps.
This would appear to be a case of the Colts playing it safe and taking things slow as Mathis works back from missing last season with a torn Achilles, but he has played in five games this year. You'd think he could play a bit more than 19 snaps, right?
Head coach Chuck Pagano was asked about Mathis' low snap count on Wednesday, and his answer was simple: "He's going to get some more snaps."
That's a good thing, because the Colts really could use Mathis right about now. So far this season, no Colt has been able to generate consistent pass rush, as no player has more than one sack this year. And Trent Cole, who the team signed this offseason to solidify their pass rush, has been almost nonexistent, only recording one quarterback hit so far this season. Seriously - Cole has a $6,953,125 cap hit this year and has only recorded one quarterback hit through six games. Sure, he missed a game with an injury, but even one hit in five games is awful.
Robert Mathis hasn't been overwhelming, but when weighing production vs. playing time, he's clearly the most productive pass rusher that the Colts have, when considering the three main pass rush "threats" in Cole, Mathis, and Jonathan Newsome.
|Colts Pass Rusher Comparison (weeks 1-6, 2015)|
The Colts face a very tough slate of upcoming games and quarterbacks over the next few weeks: the Saints (Drew Brees), the Panthers (Cam Newton), the Broncos (Peyton Manning), the Falcons (Matt Ryan), the Buccaneers (Jameis Winson), and the Steelers (Ben Roethilsberger). Sure, some of those quarterbacks or teams don't fit with the others, but overall it will be a tough stretch for the defense, and it will be important to generate some pressure.
So far this season, that's something the Colts have not been able to do much at all. Trent Cole has been invisible. Jonathan Newsome hasn't been too impressive, either. While Robert Mathis hasn't been the Robert Mathis of old, he's still the best pass rush option that the Colts have. And so moving forward, they need to get him more involved, and it sounds like that's exactly what the team is planning to do. The hope was that the Colts would improve their pass rush enough in the offseason so that the 34-year old Mathis coming off of a torn Achilles wouldn't have to be counted on to provide the bulk of the pass rush, but that hasn't worked out and instead the Colts are right back to desperately needing Mathis on the field. Hopefully, he's up to the challenge.