AFC South: Cam Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS -- As someone pointed out to me, there were only 98 days until the start of the NFL season as of Sunday.

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Ninety-eight is also the number of Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis. Mathis, as you know, is suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for failing the league's drug policy.

There's still plenty of time between now and Sept. 7 to determine who will join D'Qwell Jackson, Erik Walden and Jerrell Freeman in the starting lineup at Mathis' linebacker spot.

Second-year linebacker Bjoern Werner is getting the first crack at starting in those four games.

"All the young pass-rushers have to step up," he said. "We don't know who the guy is, everybody is seeing opportunity and everybody is just trying to replace him for the first four games."

Werner, who missed three games last season with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot, had 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks during his rookie season. Like Mathis did in his first year under coach Chuck Pagano's 3-4 defensive scheme, Werner had to make the adjustment from being a defensive end in college to being an outside linebacker. He has spent the offseason getting stronger.

Werner will be pushed by Daniel Adongo, Cam Johnson, Andy Studebaker and Jonathan Newsome for playing time at outside linebacker with Mathis out.

"I prepare the same way before the whole situation with Robert came out, and I'll keep preparing the same way," Werner said. "I feel great, I've had a great offseason and just seize the moment. Hopefully I'm the guy, but that's coach's situation."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thursday was Day 3 of the Indianapolis Colts' organized team activities. It was also the first day that the media had access to the players.

Here's a quick roll call of players who didn't take part: Receiver T.Y. Hilton, running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard, fullback Stanley Havili, linebacker Cam Johnson, guard Donald Thomas, tight end Erik Swoope and offensive lineman Thomas Austin.

Those players are likely dealing with some kind of injury.

Receivers Reggie Wayne and Donte Moncrief and safety LaRon Landry weren't in attendance Thursday.

Wayne isn't scheduled to take part in OTAs because he's still working his way back from the torn ACL. Moncrief is in Los Angeles at the NFLPA's Rookie Premiere event. Landry is absent because he prefers to work out on his own in the offseason. He did the same thing last offseason.

It's not mandatory for players to attend the OTAs, but it's a little surprising Landry decided not attend. You obviously don't have to worry about him being in shape because he lives in the weight room during the offseason and during the season. It's more about developing continuity at safety with Delano Howell, the frontrunner for the starting spot. There's a significant difference going from Antoine Bethea, a proven veteran, to Howell, who has limited starting experience. And it's not like Landry had an impressive first season with the Colts.

But again, OTAs aren't mandatory for the players. It would just be good if Landry attended as the Colts try to improve a defense that finished 2oth overall last season.

Colts' performance-based pay

March, 25, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Nine Indianapolis Colts players received performance-based incentives for more than $100,000 each during the 2013 season. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman and offensive line Hugh Thornton both earned more than $218,000.

The incentives are based off playing time and a player’s base salary. Veteran backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck received only $827.05 out of the $3.46 million which teams are allotted. The money usually benefits minimum-salaried free-agent signings and players on their first NFL contracts who end up playing a lot.

Here’s a breakdown of the top-10 performance bonuses on the Colts.

LB Jerrell Freeman $248,772.35

OL Hugh Thornton $218,167.75

WR T.Y. Hilton $162,808.35

FB Stanley Havili $132,945.28

TE Jack Doyle $128,223.40

DE Ricardo Mathews $118,490.40

LB Cam Johnson $109,230.89

WR Griff Whalen $101,056.36

LB Kelvin Sheppard $100,435.98

LB Mario Harvey $92,307.29

Here’s a breakdown of the bottom-10 performance bonuses on the roster.

WR Reggie Wayne $6,651.65

TE Dwayne Allen $5,711.86

C Khaled Holmes $4,695.54

TE Justice Cunningham $3,913.60

OL Donald Thomas $3,384.86

K Adam Vinatieri $2,738.82

RB Robert Hughes $2,618.30

RB Kerwynn Williams $2,494.16

OL Thomas Austin $1,816.86

QB Matt Hasselbeck $827.05

Werner could return against Houston

October, 28, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts could have their first-round draft pick back when they play the Houston Texans on Sunday.

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Linebacker Bjoern Werner practiced on a limited basis Monday. He’s been out with a torn plantar fascia since Sept. 29. He has five tackles and 0.5 sacks this season.

“We’ll see how he comes in [Tuesday],” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “He felt good with what he did leaving the practice field and hopefully he comes in [Tuesday] morning and feels great and then amp it up a little more on Wednesday. Always see the glass half-full on that kind of thing.”

While Werner continues to work his way back, safety Delano Howell (neck) and cornerback Josh Gordy (groin) are both doubtful against the Texans. Cornerback Greg Toler (groin) and linebacker Cam Johnson (ankle) are day-to-day.

Colts trade preseason standout to Dallas

September, 3, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Linebacker Caesar Rayford went from being a player that couldn’t get an invite to an NFL training camp, to being a 27-year-old rookie in the Indianapolis Colts’ camp, to beating the odds and making the 53-man roster, to now being traded.

The Colts traded Rayford to the Dallas Cowboys for a conditional draft pick in 2015 on Tuesday, according to ESPN's Todd Archer.

Rayford was the Colts’ most effective pass-rusher in the preseason, leading them with a team-high five sacks to go with two forced fumbles.

His value to the Colts decreased when the team acquired linebacker Cam Johnson from San Francisco on Monday. Trading Rayford allows Johnson the opportunity to get more reps in practice and potentially help a defense that could use some pass-rush assistance.

Players usually don’t like to be traded, but in this situation Rayford should feel good because his preseason performance proved to teams that he could play in the NFL.

That’s not too bad for a player who spent time in the Arena and Canadian Football League and couldn’t get NFL teams to invite him to training camp until this summer.

Colts still searching for pass-rush help

September, 2, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS – One of the biggest questions not involving the offensive line with the Colts was who would be Robert Mathis' pass-rush partner.

That question started earlier this year when the Colts decided not to bring pass-rush specialist Dwight Freeney back. And it remains unanswered.

That’s not good when the regular season is just days away.

The Colts know that, too, which is why they acquired another pass-rusher in linebacker Cam Johnson from San Francisco on Monday. They released tight end Justice Cunningham to make room on the roster.

The Colts' front office liked what they saw on film from Johnson, who starred in the preseason for the 49ers. His performance in the preseason finale against San Diego sealed the deal for the Colts. Johnson, a seventh-round pick in 2012, had two sacks, blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. That performance earned Johnson a spot on the 49ers’ 53-man roster.

The Colts were hoping to get a better indication of who could complement Mathis, who had a team-high eight sacks last season, in the pass-rush department during the preseason. Rookie linebacker Caesar Rayford led the Colts with five sacks in the preseason, but he did it against backup players and won't likely get much playing time on defense this season.

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