<
>

Search is on to see who can help Robert Mathis with Colts' pass rush

Can the Indianapolis Colts have more than 35 sacks next season? Who will help Robert Mathis get after the quarterback in 2016? Those are questions I've consistently been asked after the Colts decided against signing a free-agent pass-rusher or selecting one in the draft.

Mike Wells: There could always be roster additions between now and Week 1 against Detroit. But one must also realize that players who get released or any current free agents are in those positions for a reason. The teams they were on didn’t think they were good enough to be major contributors.

The Colts were fortunate two years ago when they signed veteran safety Mike Adams during their mandatory three-day minicamp in June. Adams has made the Pro Bowl in each of his two seasons in Indianapolis.

But that’s not something that happens all the time.

The Colts want to develop their younger players instead of relying on over-the-hill types they hope can still play. Let’s work under the impression that the Colts don’t add any more pass-rushers. That means Mathis and Trent Cole will be the primary threats. Fellow linebacker Erik Walden can also get to the quarterback. Defensive end Kendall Langford tied Mathis for the team lead in sacks last season with seven. The Colts also moved Earl Okine from the defensive line to linebacker.

You have to work under the assumption that new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino will be able to get more than 35 sacks out of his unit next season.

“There’s no question that Robert still has a dominant trait as a pass-rusher," Monachino said. "We’ve got him and Trent and Erik and even some of our young pass-rushers that we have brought in have that potential to win on their own. From the defensive-line standpoint, I think what you see are guys that can win in short space. We give them an opportunity to do that with some movement.

"We can expect some production out of that group. But I think across the league you’ll see that most of the productive rushes come outside on those tackles. That’s where it happens, but the more push we can gain inside, the better Robert and Trent and Erik and Earl and those guys will look outside.”