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What can the Colts reasonably expect from Robert Mathis in 2016?

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars Jim Steve-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts spent the offseason addressing some of their needs, especially the offensive line. But that also meant they weren't able to address every issue, resulting in the pass rush being left thin.

The pass rush is certainly the biggest lingering concern for the Colts right now, and they very much want to develop younger talent. They’ll be working with a converted defensive lineman, a seventh round draft pick, and several undrafted players, however, meaning the Colts likely won’t be able to count on immediate production from them. That leaves the position up to Robert Mathis and Trent Cole (plus other positions like defensive linemen), and the top name there obviously is Mathis.

The Colts’ all-time leader in sacks, Mathis is two years removed from a torn Achilles and 35 years old. He still had a good year last year in recording seven sacks, but at some point his age is going to catch up to him. So what can Colts fans realistically expect from Robert Mathis this year?

I think it’s very reasonable to expect him to reach the level of production he was at last year. He recorded seven sacks and a forced fumble, which is still a good season for a pass rusher. It is also very realistic to think that Mathis could be even better than that in 2016 as he’s now a year away from his torn Achilles. He said last year that he didn't really feel 100% until later in the season, and he certainly improved as the year went on - he notched three sacks and a forced fumble in the final three games, including being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week in week 16. Because of that, it’s very possible that Mathis could reach ten or eleven sacks in 2016 if he’s at full health. The question, of course, is whether we’ll see age catch up to him a bit, in which case it still probably would be reasonable to expect the same level of production from a year ago.

That wouldn't be enough to erase the concerns about the Colts’ pass rush, but it would at least give them a reliable rusher who can get after the quarterback. If they can get that kind of production out of Mathis, the hope would be that a couple of other players would step up and also contribute. It will be a pass rush by committee, but it would be incredibly helpful if the Colts could find that prominent pass rusher. Robert Mathis looks to be the only realistic option to be that in 2016, and I think it’s fair to expect him to continue to be productive.