One of the biggest weaknesses of the Colts' team in 2014 was their lack of pass rush. They lost Robert Mathis for the season before he even stepped on the field for a single game, and they struggled to get anything consistent going when it came to rushing the quarterback. When they did get pressure, it was mostly because they sent blitzes to get there.
Every coach will tell you that his team looks improved heading into next season than it was a season ago, and Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is no different, as he talked on Wednesday about how much he likes his team's pass rush heading into 2015.
"Feel good about it," Pagano noted, "especially when Rob (Mathis) does get back and having guys like Erik (Walden), who has been productive. You mentioned (Jonathan) Newsome, who had a really fine rookie season. Bringing Trent Cole in obviously is going to help. Kendall Langford, you guys are going to be surprised. You think we just brought in a run stopper, but he's shown in some of these 11-on-11 drills that he's got some pass rush capabilities, will get push inside.
"Everybody was worried a year ago how we were going to generate the pass rush without Rob," Pagano said, "and we ended up with 40 plus sacks still. That's a credit to Greg Manusky and our defensive staff for getting creative and finding different ways to pressure the quarterback when those opportunities arise."
On paper, the position does look to be much improved. Robert Mathis, the franchise's all-time leader in sacks, is coming back after missing all of 2014 with a torn Achilles, and the team signed another veteran pass rusher in Trent Cole this offseason in free agency. Furthermore, Jonathan Newsome led the team in sacks last year in his rookie season, recording 6.5 of them, and looks to continue to improve in his second season.
And then there's Kendall Langford, who Pagano interestingly pointed out when talking about pass rush. It's pretty clear that he was brought in to replace Cory Redding, who the team let walk this offseason, but Redding's strength was in pass rush while Langford's strength is in run defense. So it was easy to draw the conclusion that the Colts were really looking to improve their run defense this offseason - something they certainly were looking to do. Pagano, however, has high hopes for Langford not just as a run defender but also as a pass rusher, saying that, "you guys are going to be surprised." Of course, I don't think it means a ton that Langford is showing some good pass rush skills in OTAs, but we can certainly hope that Pagano is right and that the defensive lineman will help out against the pass as well as against the run.