For the second day in a row, the player who appears on our countdown of the 15 most important players to the Colts' success in 2015 is a new veteran free agent signing by the Colts this offseason. Yesterday, running back Frank Gore checked in at number 13, while today pass rusher Trent Cole appears on the list at number 12.
Cole spent the first ten seasons of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played in 155 career games (145 starts) and recorded 436 tackles, 85.5 sacks, 19 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, 23 passes defensed, and an interception (which he returned for a touchdown). He is a two-time Pro Bowler and has notched four double-digit sack seasons in his career, most recently in 2011. Last year, Cole racked up 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, and the year before that he recorded eight sacks and three forced fumbles. Even if he duplicates that production for the Colts in 2015, it would be an upgrade over their pass rush from a season ago.
The Colts mightily struggled to rush the passer in 2014, but that's no secret to those who watched the team play. Pro Football Focus found that the Colts blitzed the third-most of any team in the league last year, as they needed to in order to try to manufacture pressure. With that said, the Colts still ranked 25th in pass rush productivity while blitzing, but that was better than their 31st overall ranking when not blitzing. The Colts desperately tried to manufacture a pass rush, and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is to be commended, but they just couldn't make up for the lack of a legitimate number one pass rusher. Hopefully, in 2015, that will be different. The team has Robert Mathis returning from injury, yes, but also Trent Cole, a player who has proven that he can get to the quarterback in the NFL and who should be able to do that again in Indianapolis this year. We know that not having a pass rush can have a big impact on the rest of the defense, as it puts more pressure on the defensive line and the secondary to make plays. The Colts' secondary did a pretty good job in 2014, but with a better pass rush perhaps they could be even better as well. The hope is that Trent Cole will help the Colts get after the quarterback in 2015, and if he can do that like he has done in the past, that would be huge.
Past rankings on this list: N/A (first appearance)
Check out our list counting down the 15 most important players to the Colts' success in 2015:
15. Jerrell Freeman, ILB
14. Greg Toler, CB
13. Frank Gore, RB
12. Trent Cole, OLB