INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s no secret the pressure players such as quarterback Andrew Luck and linebacker Robert Mathis are under to be at their best every week for the Indianapolis Colts. But you don’t have to wonder if those players will show up to play on a week-to-week basis.
The same can’t be said about some other players on the roster.
With the start of training camp less than two weeks away, we’re going to take a look at a number of players who are under pressure to step up this season.
Time to step up: Erik Walden
Why he has to step up: Like safety LaRon Landry, who was the first player in the series on Wednesday, Walden was one of the marquee free agents general manager Ryan Grigson signed (four years, $16 million) in 2013. And like Landry, Walden didn’t do a whole lot to stand out. He had 45 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble. Walden’s most memorable play last season was one that nobody should be proud of. He was suspended a game after headed-butting Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker in a game in November. The head butt was dangerous because Walden had a helmet on and Walker did not. The pressure is on Walden even more early in the season because the Colts won’t have Mathis (suspension) during the first four games, with Week 1 and 2 matchups against Denver and Philadelphia, respectively.
What he has to do: Walden must complement Mathis’ pass-rushing ability on the other side. Mathis was a one-man rush last season for the Colts. Walden has yet to register more than three sacks in his career. The Colts can’t expect to improve from being the 20th-ranked defense if Walden is supplying some kind of outside pass rush.
Outlook: Some still believe the Colts overpaid for whom they believe is a marginal linebacker in 2013. Walden knows the criticism is out there. He has had a year in coach Chuck Pagano’s system so he can’t be any worse than last season. That’s the hope at least.
Quotable: “I just feel like guys have got to embrace their opportunities. Of course, we’ve got the all-time leading sack guy not being there for four weeks, so other guys have just got to rise to the occasion and just make plays. Have fun. It’s not pressure, this is what you do, this is what you get paid to do. This is what they brought us in for is to make plays. Guys have just got to make plays.” -- Walden