AFC South: Jonathan Newsome

Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST

This only changes if an injury occurs.
INDIANAPOLIS -- As someone pointed out to me, there were only 98 days until the start of the NFL season as of Sunday.

Werner
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 -- Defensive end Jonathan Newsome doesn't hide behind his checkered past. He knows he made mistakes, the kind that caused him to transfer from Ohio State to Ball State, a mid-major college in the Mid-American Conference. Newsome owned up to those mistakes during a conference call moments after the Indianapolis Colts made him the No. 166 overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft on Saturday.

Newsome started his college career with the Buckeyes but transferred because he was "living it up a little bit too much" at Ohio State. He missed spring practice in 2011 because of academic problems.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Newsome
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhColts prospect Jonathan Newsome hopes to follow in the footsteps of pass-rusher Robert Mathis.
"I was young and I was dumb, honestly," Newsome said. "Young and dumb and making dumb decisions as far as my academics, and I lost trust in my coaches. Before I had stayed there and tried to dig myself out of a hole that was so deep. I'd rather go get a fresh start at Ball State, where I had some former high school teammates that were playing there and a good supporting staff. That was the reason I left. I just needed a fresh start."

New school, same troubles for Newsome.

He was suspended two games at Ball State after being arrested in August 2012 for marijuana possession when a bag containing marijuana was found in his wallet. He was also held on a warrant after an incident in November 2011 when he and a teammate were accused of shoplifting.

"My mother's always been supportive of me," Newsome said. "Even when I did mess up, she was always there for me. And my head coach from high school, coach [Ted] Ginn [Sr.], was always there in my corner. When I messed up, he got me back right, got my focus back right and all my priorities straight.

"There were times when there was doubt, but ultimately, I was mentally tough enough to overcome all that stuff, and now I'm just sitting here and I'm an Indianapolis Colt. I can't even explain how crazy that story is, to go from almost getting kicked out of school to being an NFL draft pick, graduate. Everything's looking up and I'm going to continue with this success. I don't plan on having any more bumps in the road."

The Colts did thorough research on Newsome, and, just like he was with the media Saturday, he was just as honest to team officials when he met with them.

"If you lie, you’re dead to us," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said.

Newsome had 116 tackles (26 for a loss) and 16.5 sacks in his two seasons at Ball State.

"The tape doesn’t lie," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "It’s out there and the guy is a football junkie. It’s his whole life, and he’s a four core special-teams guy, and he embraces that. He loves that. It’s hard. As you guys know, it’s hard to find pass-rushers, and the way our league’s going, you can never have enough of them, so we feel great. As the board was getting plucked away, we were sweating bullets."

Former Colts general manager and current ESPN NFL analyst Bill Polian said Newsome has "Robert Mathis-like ability."

"I think that’s a good comparison," Newsome said. "We ran multiple fronts at Ball State. We ran 4-3, we ran 3-4, we ran a lot of nickel. When we ran 3-4, I was an outside linebacker. I stood up a lot. When we ran a 4-3, I stood up on the edge. I can do all that stuff."

Mathis, like Newsome, came out of a small school -- Alabama A&M -- and he's turned in what should be a Hall of Fame career. Mathis has 111 career sacks.

"I’m going to be his little brother. He doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to be like his little brother," Newsome said. "I’m going to learn from [him]. I watched him all last year. We have similar builds.

"I can’t wait to learn from him. He led the league in sacks last year. That’s what I love to do -- sack the quarterback. Why not learn from the best?"

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