- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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And why not, the Colts outside linebacker is tied for the league lead in sacks, with 9.5, and once again the Broncos are likely to start a mix-and-match offensive line. Mathis, who was a defensive end during Manning’s time in Indianapolis, part of a disruptive tandem with former Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, was moved to outside linebacker in 2012 when the team switched to a 3-4 defense. And in his 11th season, he’s still quick off the ball, quick to the corner and keeps working to the quarterback even if he is initially stopped.
Mathis routinely grinds out sacks because he keeps pressing the issue, often after opposing linemen believe they have shoved him far enough past the quarterback.
Mathis often lines up on the defensive left, which would put him directly across from this week’s makeover in the offensive front. With right tackle Orlando Franklin sidelined because of ankle and knee injuries, the Broncos are expected to keep the lineup they used after Franklin left this past Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That would put Louis Vasquez in Franklin’s right tackle spot and Chris Kuper in Vasquez’ right guard spot. It’s been a crash course for Vasquez, who has only started at guard in his NFL career, but was cross-trained at tackle at times in offseason workouts as well as training camp
“Louis knew he was probably going to play some right tackle probably about two weeks after he got here,’’ said Broncos offensive line coach Dave Magazu. “You kind of get into their comfort zone a little bit, make them learn a little more than their own position.’’
Vasquez is a technically sound player, so much so he has been flagged for penalties just four times in his entire career. He is a power player with imposing size, but he has the reach of a tackle and played well after making the move this past Sunday.
Mathis will be a stern test of Vasquez’ footwork however, given Mathis’ ability to change direction and catch linemen leaning. At 246 pounds Mathis still rushes with power at times, usually as a change of pace or to shove a lineman off balance once he sees a mistake has been made.
The Colts figure to test whatever the Broncos have to offer in the right side of the offensive line and the Broncos may need to bulk up the formation from time to time with their two-tight end look. Defenses have played it conservatively thus far against Manning. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manning has faced four or fewer pass-rushers on 70 percent of his dropbacks this season.