Chuck Pagano is entering his fourth season with the Indianapolis Colts, and the expectations are higher than ever during that time. The Colts are among the favorites to win the AFC and the Super Bowl, and for that to happen, Pagano's defense will need to improve.
Hopefully, improvement will come just from getting the franchise's all-time sack leader and the NFL's all-time strip-sack leader back. Robert Mathis, who led the league in sacks with 19.5 just two years ago, missed last season with a torn Achilles. The timeline for his return to the playing field this year is still uncertain, and there are legitimate questions about how effective the 34-year old will be upon returning.
That's not a question for Chuck Pagano, however. He recently told ESPN's Ed Werder that Mathis "will make a huge impact this season."
#Colts HC Chuck Pagano to me on Robert Mathis recovery from ruptured Achilles: "He will make a HUGE impact this season.''
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) July 23, 2015
That's certainly the hope for a team that struggled to generate pressure last year. The team did manage 41 sacks, but they had to rely heavily on blitz packages to create any semblance of pressure, and they weren't very efficient or effective at getting after the quarterback. Rookie Jonathan Newsome led the team with 6.5 sacks, a mark that would have been Mathis' lowest total since his rookie season. This isn't the discredit the good things that Newsome did last year, but the reality was that the Colts just didn't have a consistent pass rush threat. They have attempted to fix that this offseason by signing Trent Cole and getting Mathis back, plus hoping for continued development from Newsome. For as good as the signing of Cole could end up being, however, and for as much progress as Newsome might make, the biggest addition to the pass rush could very well end up being Robert Mathis.
The question is about whether Mathis will come back healthy and productive. A player who is 34-years old and coming off of a missed season because of a torn Achilles isn't exactly the most encouraging situation, but we've learned never to count Robert Mathis out. The questions are more than fair, but the hope is that he will return and produce for the Colts in the area of pass rush. Chuck Pagano thinks it will happen, and while that's exactly what you'd expect the head coach to say, if Mathis actually does produce upon his return it could end up being the biggest and most important addition to the team of all.