Indianapolis Colts: Cam Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS -- All eyes shifted to Indianapolis Colts second-year linebacker Bjoern Werner immediately after the NFL announced the four-game suspension of linebacker Robert Mathis for violating the league's drug policy last month.

Werner is the leading candidate to start at outside linebacker while Mathis is serving his suspension. Quite simply, there's no reason why Werner should not be starting when the Colts take on the Denver Broncos in Week 1.

This is no offense to Cam Johnson, Daniel Adongo, Andy Studebaker and Jonathan Newsome.

Position: Outside linebacker

Primary candidate: Werner

Pro: Werner has the most experience of the group competing for the starting spot. He had 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a rookie. Werner also spent the majority of the offseason workouts working with the first unit.

Con: Just like the rest of the defense, Werner needs to work on being consistent. “I think he knows what's at stake,” Colts GM Ryan Grigson said. “I think you see it just in the way he's playing right now, just the way he's getting off the ball, the way his body looks, what he did in this offseason. He was a constant that was here every second. He was like a wall flower. He was here every time you turned around.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- As someone pointed out to me, there were only 98 days until the start of the NFL season as of Sunday.

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.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Hopefully the initial shock of outside linebacker Robert Mathis' four-game suspension has worn off until Week 1 of the regular season when the Indianapolis Colts miss him against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

There is no replacing Mathis’ impact on defense. Who starts in his absence might not be determined until training camp, but it’s never too early for us to take a look at the options at outside linebacker.

Bjoern Werner: The 2013 first-round pick had 15 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a rookie. Colts GM Ryan Grigson wanted Werner to spend time in the offseason getting stronger. "I know (defensive coordinator Greg) Manusky’s all over him about getting some guns and looking the part," Grigson said at the end of last season.

Cam Johnson: Johnson was a hot name after the Colts acquired him from San Francisco last September. The majority of his playing time ended up being on special teams.

Andy Studebaker: He totaled six tackles in 11 games after being signed prior to the Oct. 14, 2013, game against the San Diego Chargers.

Jonathan Newsome: Former Colts GM Bill Polian compared Newsome to Mathis moments after the Colts selected him No. 166 overall in the draft last weekend. The Colts would be in good hands if Newsome immediately started playing like Mathis. That likely won’t happen, because like Mathis, Newsome is transitioning from playing defensive end in college to outside linebacker in coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defensive scheme.

Colts' performance-based pay

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
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
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson didn't just come out and say it as he stood behind the podium at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 21. But you knew what he was getting at while addressing the media during the NFL scouting combine that afternoon.

Grigson was asked if center Samson Satele was in the team's plans in the future.

“This is an evaluation process and we have a plan in place,” he said. “We're not going to divulge that to anyone, but we're taking all the time and due diligence and the film work and it's something for the organization to know and you guys will find out at some point.”

Grigson's comments about Satele may not seem like a big deal, but things were put further into perspective about how the organization felt about the center when the general manager talked about safety LaRon Landry, cornerback Greg Toler and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois needing to be more consistent next season in the concourse outside of the media area.

Releasing Satele, who was a disappointment last season, became official Thursday. The move frees up $4 million in salary cap space for the Colts.

The Colts are now on the market for a new starting center to snap the ball to franchise quarterback Andrew Luck and block because Khaled Holmes, who played a total of 12 snaps during his rookies season, is the only center on the roster.

Mike McGlynn was solid while starting in place of the injured Satele last season. McGlynn's a free agent and I've been told that the Colts don't plan on re-signing him at the moment.

New Orleans' Brian De La Punte and Green Bay's Even Dietrich-Smith are possible players the Colts could pursue once free agency begins March 11. The Cleveland Browns used the transition tag on center Alex Mack. The Browns have the right to match any offer made to Mack.

  • And to put a wrap on Thursday's busy day for the Colts, which also saw them sign linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, they made qualifying offers to restricted free agents cornerback Josh Gordy and offensive lineman Joe Reitz. The Colts have the right of first refusal if Gordy or Reitz receives an offer sheet from another team. Indianapolis made an exclusive rights tender to linebacker Cam Johnson.
  • Indianapolis Colts free agents

    January, 12, 2014
    Jan 12
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    Here's a quick list of the Colts' free-agent players. General manager Ryan Grigson will have some decisions to make because there are several players on the list who have been fixtures in the organization, so he'll have to decide if he wants to bring them back at a reduced price or cut ties with them.

    Seems like Antoine Bethea, Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee, Donald Brown, Vontae Davis and Sergio Brown will be the toughest for Grigson to decide on. And keep in mind that the Colts don’t have a first-round draft pick this year, either.

    Position/name: Age

    Indianapolis Colts injury update

    November, 6, 2013
    PM ET
    INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts' injury list had a lot of familiar names on it Wednesday.

    Starting linebacker Robert Mathis (shoulder), running back Trent Richardson (ankle), guard Hugh Thornton (calf) and cornerback Greg Toler (groin) did not practice. Thornton was wearing a walking boot at practice. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Toler, who missed last Sunday’s game at Houston, is questionable for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.

    Defensive tackle Josh Chapman (knee), cornerback Josh Gordy (groin) and safety Delano Howell (neck) also missed the game against the Texans and didn’t practice Wednesday.

    Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (shoulder) and linebacker Cam Johnson (knee) both were full participants in practice.

    Werner could return against Houston

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

    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.

    Colts add depth to the linebacker group

    September, 2, 2013
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    INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts added more depth to their linebacker core when they acquired Cam Johnson from the San Francisco 49ers for a conditional draft pick.

    Johnson wasn’t expected to make the 49ers’ roster at the start of training camp, but he played so well that they kept him. The former seventh-round pick spent 14 games on the practice squad last season.

    Johnson joins a linebacker group that already includes Pat Angerer, Kavell Conner, Jerrell Freeman, Mario Harvey, Robert Mathis, Caesar Rayford, Kelvin Sheppard, Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner.