Robert Mathis is retired from playing NFL football, but he’s still very much around the game. As we’ve noted before, he’s helping the Colts as an unofficial coach this offseason, working with the team’s current pass rushers.
The Colts recently posted a video online of Mathis mic’d up on the practice field and it’s an enjoyable watch, and one thing that stood out is that he used former teammate and Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison as an example.
“Like Marvin Harrison, he used to sell - his routes used to look, all his routes used to look exactly the same,” Mathis told Jabaal Sheard. “So if it’s a quick out, quick in, deep post, all them joints look just alike. So with us, you sell speed. You sell speed.”
What Mathis is trying to teach these younger pass rushers is to sell their rushes so that opposing offensive linemen won’t be able to predict what they do. You want all of your rushes to look identical so that you can then surprise linemen by different moves and things like that, because originally they all look like the same thing.
That’s what Marvin Harrison was so good at - only from the wide receiver position rather than as a pass rusher, obviously. Harrison was known for making all of his routes look exactly identical off the snap, which gave him a huge advantage on defensive backs when he then broke off on different routes. Off the snap, the way Harrison ran his routes made it impossible to tell whether he’d be running a short slat or a deep go route, and that worked to his advantage.
Mathis saw Harrison do that during the six years that they spent together on the Colts, and now he’s trying to use that trait he saw in Marvin to teach younger pass rushers. If they can sell their rushes to look similar each time, it will give them an advantage on opposing offensive linemen and keep them guessing.
It’s cool to see Mathis coaching up the Colts’ current pass rushers about the skills and techniques of getting after the quarterback, something Mathis did so well for so long. Hopefully that wisdom and teaching that he’s imparting on these younger guys pays dividends for a Colts pass rush that could use as much help as possible.