One of the biggest weaknesses of the Indianapolis Colts in 2014 was a lack of a pass rush. Without Robert Mathis, the team really didn't have a consistent pass rush option and instead had to resort to blitzing to try to generate pressure.
While Mathis is expected to return and while Chuck Pagano doesn't doubt his ability to get back to a productive level, the Colts realize that they must address the pass rush position this offseason; and in fact it might be a bigger area of focus than many initially thought.
During their press conferences on Thursday from the NFL Combine, both general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano were unified on, among other things, this one key point: you can never have enough pass rushers.
"I was brought up with if you have 12 pass rushers get 13," Grigson said. "You can never have enough pass rushers and that's scouting 101."
"The hard part," Grigson continued, "is actually finding ones that are clean and really good, clean I mean don't have any off the field, don't have any warts, they're hard to come by, so you have to get them later or you have to take a junior that has limited production. That's where true scouting comes into play. But I feel like we have some guys coming back from injury that you know there's a cluster of guys that you hope just one or two of those guys shake out because we feel they have real ability. Of course Robert is Robert and we still have high hopes for a lot of guys in that position group but if there's a pass rusher that gets your blood pumping in the draft you go get them no matter where your needs are."
Similarly, Chuck Pagano considers pass rush to be very important. "You can never have enough pass rushers," Pagano said, adding that, "you can never have enough corners. Big, long, fast, tall guys that can cover these wideouts.
"I think we had maybe one less sack or right at 41 or 42 a year ago," Pagano said. "Had 41 this year without Robert's production. I thought Greg Manusky and the entire defensive staff and the players we had on the team currently did a great job of generating. It was a huge concern of everybody. ‘Where we gonna get the pass rush from?' We found a way to get to the quarterback. We've got some guys coming back that we know can rush the passer. But again, you can never have enough of those guys. We're always looking to evaluate whatever it is, free agency, obviously we're going to look at guys at this combine and the draft coming up to see if we can improve."
Grigson and Pagano were unified on most things during their respective press conferences, but this particular issue was interesting. Both men said that, "you can never have enough pass rushers" and mentioned that, if there was a player at the spot that they liked, they would go after them. The Colts are clearly interested in the pass rush spot and are looking into that position this offseason.
And really, who can blame them? It was a struggle a year ago, and while Robert Mathis coming back should be a boost, it's going to be hard for the team to count on him to reach the level he was at before. Jonathan Newsome showed a lot of promise in his rookie season (who Grigson praised Thursday, saying without him "there's a chance we don't win in Denver" in the playoffs) and hopefully he will continue to improve in 2015. But it's an area that the Colts could use help on, and Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano are both unified in just how important the spot is.
Even though you could probably point to bigger needs that the Colts have this offseason, the pass rush is indeed one. Don't be surprised if the Colts add a player or two at the position this offseason, because as the Colts know very well, you can never have too many pass rushers.