The Colts’ pass rush is not great, but we knew it wouldn’t be entering the season. Considering the talent level that was there, it was thought to be one of the team’s biggest weaknesses.
That has proven to be true, but it’s not as bad as some thought it might be - and that’s in part due to Erik Walden. He had two sacks again on Sunday to add to his career-high total, and in doing so he reached double-digits on the season. He now has ten, which is tied for the tenth-most in the NFL this season (he’s one of eleven players with double-digit sacks this year).
Walden’s never really been a pass rusher, and to characterize him as one now wouldn’t be entirely accurate. But he’s nonetheless stepped up. Before joining the Colts in 2013, he had recorded just nine career sacks in 68 games, never finishing with more than three in a season. In his first year with the team he reached that total with three sacks, and then the following year he doubled it, setting a new career high with six. Last year he again recorded three sacks, and then this year he’s notched ten through 14 games. In 59 games with the Colts, he’s recorded 22 sacks.
This season has been a career year for Walden, who’s on a contract year, and he’s also been among the team’s most productive defenders. He has recorded 35 tackles, ten sacks, 16 quarterback hits, ten tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles in 14 games started. He leads the team in sacks (by six), quarterback hits (by nine), tackles for loss (by five), and is tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (with Mike Adams and Robert Mathis).
To make Walden’s season more impressive, just look at it in context. His ten sacks are the most a Colts player has had in the past three seasons and the second-most a Colts player has had in the last six years, behind only Robert Mathis’s incredible 2013 season in which he recorded 19.5 sacks. So in the Chuck Pagano era, this season from Walden is just the second double-digit sack season for a player. Furthermore, he’s the first player not named Robert Mathis or Dwight Freeney to record a double-digit sack season for the Colts since Chad Bratzke had 12 in 1999. So in the past 17 seasons, no player not named Freeney or Mathis has done what Walden has done this year with the Colts in reaching the ten sack mark.
Walden has had a very impressive season, and while it’s been going under-the-radar and while he hasn’t been as dynamic of a pass rusher as the ‘true’ edge rushers in this league, he’s still been the best the Colts have had this year and deserves plenty of credit for the career year he’s had.