With Mathis Out Who Will Step Up?

gallery_3_11_23897As of Saturday, Robert Mathis will sit out professional football for a month. This is not an ordinary laid-back suspension – Mathis is not only suspended from playing and practicing, but from anything Colts or NFL-related. Mathis is not even allowed in the building for the next 4 weeks. Of course, we all know by now that Mathis was suspended for using the fertility drug Clomid, which Mathis was unaware was banned from the NFL. Nevertheless, our beloved outside LB will be out for the next month.

So what do the Colts do as they face the Broncos, Eagles, Jaguars, and Titans without one of the top voices on defense? Eric Walden and Bjoern Werner. These two guys have no choice but to step up to the plate and deliver results.

I look at Walden and see a player that has proven himself on the stat sheet the last four seasons between the Packers and Colts. He has even put up numbers relative to the great 98 in solo tackles and assists. In 2011 he racked up 41 solo tackles. One area of concern is his sacking ability; it’s almost seemed nonexistent.  However, we could see that change since his rushing ability is what has been keeping him on the starting line up ahead of Werner.  What the Colts need the most out of Walden is his experience and voice. We are lacking a chief leader on the team and Eric, though he only has one season with the Colts, has been in the league for 8 years and we need him to provide that leadership that comes along with being a veteran.

Now to Bjoern Werner – the first round pick from a year ago is finding himself being thrown into a very difficult position with a ton of responsibility. Last year it was always interesting to see Werner on the field and what the outcome would be. Although his numbers might not have been that impressive, he was always a player to look out for as he worked his way into a starting position.  Werner is expected to be a starter, but that could change if he doesn’t step up his pass-rushing abilities.

The two most challenging opponents the Colts will face during the next month is Denver and Philadelphia. It was obvious that last year’s victory over the Broncos was due in large part to Mathis’ performance. So with back-to-back prime time games, we will see what the outside linebacker position really has to offer against two challenging QB’s like Manning and Foles.

Who knows? This could actually be a great thing for the Colts. We all know Mathis is going to come back with plenty of emotion and he might come back even better then before (kind of a scary thought).  Even though Mathis cannot practice with the team, he is allowed to hire whoever he wants to coach him during this time, and we all know he can get the best coach money can buy.

Roster Reactions


The day that players dread has come and gone along with the hopes and dreams of many players who had been playing and training alongside those who were lucky enough to land on the “Final 53″.  We all know that the final roster is really not final, but it’s a good starting point for the front office.   Minor tweaks and changes occur and those who once found themselves on the right side of the numbers could suddenly be on the wrong side.  I had done three roster guesses on what I’d thought the final roster would look like, and guess what?  I didn’t nail it (surprise),  but I did get many areas correct. What can we make of the roster and the moves that accompanies it? That’s what I will look at.

 The final composition of the roster didn’t really contain many surprises. The one most will point to is the release of Kelvin Sheppard, some including myself thought he would remain on the roster because he was more or less a good reserve player. Acquired via a trade with Buffalo last year for former first round pick Jerry Hughes. In reality, Shepherd was a way for the front office to gain something for Hughes and also served a way to move on from fan favorite Kavell Conner. Hughes seemed to benefit from the change of scenery where Sheppard just seemed to be a mediocre player for the team. The team seems to have found two young players in McNary and Muamba who have made his presence on the team expendable.

The other name that has brought up some discussion involves the trade of UDFA Marcus Burley to the Seattle Seahawks for a sixth round pick in the 2015 draft.  Its hard to complain about the front office for flipping an UDFA for a draft pick, but that is what has made many including myself wonder if it was a good deal.  Consider the facts that the Seahawks were willing to give up a draft pick and also make space for him on the roster, they must really see something.  My biggest concern centers around the idea that what if Burley is the one that got away.  It’s great that the team got something but what if the team runs into injuries in the cornerback corps, someone like Burley would arguably  be more valuable in that case, especially if the team’s ultimate goal is Super Bowl or bust!  Again, I’m not criticizing the move, I just question the willingness of Seattle to acquire him on team already known for an excellent secondary.

The next area that I missed on concerned the running back and fullback positions.  First, with Stanley Havili being placed on the PUP list, and Mario Harvey converting from linebacker to tight end, I sold myself on the notion of the team going without a fullback until (if) Havili returns.  I reasoned that Harvey hadn’t looked that impressive in preseason or training camp and the team could most likely utilize tight ends to accomplish the same result.  I guess we can infer that they (Hamilton and the Coaching Staff) feel the position is an integral part of their plan to improve the running game.  I also think Harvey will be replaced with Havili if he comes back. It still seems that the team will rely less on this position due to the offensive weapons they have on the team.

Also, I thought Zurlon Tipton would wind up on the practice squad since the team had the running back position locked up with: Richardson, Bradshaw, and the impressive training and preseason of Dan “Boom” Herron.  It didn’t surprise me that he landed on the final roster, I wanted to include him when I did my final roster guess but I couldn’t get the numbers to work.  He showed talent but I thought there were bigger areas of need.  I’m glad he made it, let’s hope finds a role that can showcase his abilities.

Tying in with the running game, I had Weslye Saunders making the final roster at the bottom of the tight ends.  Problem is, so did the team, but they didn’t include him and decided to keep three instead of four. Saunders had shown some abilities but with a healthy: Allen, Fleener, and Doyle along with a fullback it seemed that I should have probably seen the writing on the wall in hindsight.  We might not have seen the last of Saunders, if someone were to get injured they may call on him if he is available.

The one that surprised me the most was the inclusion of Thomas Austin on the roster.  I didn’t get a good or bad impression of Austin, they just seemed fairly set at this position.  I thought they might include an extra utility lineman but I guess with Holmes and Harrison both recovering for various degrees of injury a third center may be a big priority right now.  **Just as I was publishing this article word came down that Austin had been cut and the team had signed A.Q. Shipley who previously played with the Colts in 2012 and started 5 games.  This seems to indicate that team is somewhat concerned with the health of Holmes and Harrison.  We’ll just have to see who will start against Denver in the season opener.

GM Ryan Grigson hard at work
GM Ryan Grigson hard at work

None of these move should have been shocking or surprising, yet they sometimes catch you off guard.  What we see as fans differs from what the front office sees.  They have a ton more information they are privy to, and get a clearer picture because of that.  We all know that the roster today may not be the roster tomorrow (ask Thomas Austin or A.Q. Shipley).  Moves will be made as needs dictate them or as personnel become available.  However, we can get a pretty clear picture of the make-up of the team as stands now. The changes made may appear slight but those on the roster serve a specific purpose and there seems to be much more depth than years past. A few exceptions in the areas of offensive line and safety may still require some adjustments.  Will this team live up to the expectations?  That question will be answered on the field, but one thing you can be sure of, Grigson will continue to work his phone and turn over any rock to find just the right player.  The season is so close and the team is set, let’s hope the vision meets reality!


Roster 3.0 (Final Guess)

Grigson and Pagano discuss the roster

The preseason games have been played, and training camp is over, and now all that remains is the final roster trim before the regular season opener. Some players have made their names known, and injuries may also play an important part in the final decisions. So here it goes, again for the final time.

The Final 53



QUARTERBACK (2) **NO Change**

Andrew Luck

Matt Hasselbeck

*Nothing has changed my mind with this group.


Wide Receiver (6) **No Change**

Reggie Wayne

Hakeem Nicks

T.Y. Hilton (S)

Donte Moncrief (R)

Griff Whalen

Da’Rick Rogers


Running Back (3) **No Change from 2.0)

Trent Richardson

Ahmad Bradshaw

Vick Ballard Dan “Boom” Herron

Chris Rainey


Fullback (0)

Stanley Havili Mario Harvey

**This has been one of the most fluid positions in my book. Going into training camp I saw no way that Havili wouldn’t be on the opening day roster. But, the team started him the PUP List, and not much is known in his recovery process, so Mario Harvey worked with the first team during training camp and the preseason up to this point. Now I’m not even seeing the value of carrying a fullback, Harvey has not been impressive and a tight end could probably accomplish the same thing.


Tight End (4)  **No Change**

Dwayne Allen

Coby Fleener

Jack Doyle

Weslye Saunders


Offensive Line (9)  **No Change from 2.0

Khaled Holmes *Injured, high ankle sprain, should make season opener.

Hugh Thornton

Donald Thomas Jonotthan Harrison *Injury to thumb, unspecified time.

Anthony Costanzo

Godser Cherilus

Jack Mewhort (R) 

Joe Reitz *High ankle sprain, suffered in Cincinnati preseason game.

Xavier Nixon *Injured, unspecified time

Lance Louis



Defensive Line (6) 

Ricky Jean Francois

Arthur Jones

Josh Chapman

Cory Redding

Montori Hughes

Brandon McKinney Zach Kerr (R)

**Kerr has really made the case for the Colts to keep him on the final 53-man roster. He has really been the standout on the defense in the last two games.


Outside Linebacker (5)  **No Change from 2.0

Robert Mathis *

Erik Walden

Bjoern Werner

Cam Johnson

Daniel Adongo Andy Studebaker

Jonathan Newsome (R)**

*Suspended first 4 games of the season, assigned to Reserve/Suspended for duration.

**On squad while Mathis serves suspension.


Inside Linebacker (5)  

Jerrell Freeman

D’Qwell Jackson

Josh McNary

Kelvin Sheppard

Henoc Muamba


Safety (4)  

LaRon Landry *Injured, Soft Tissue, Day-to-Day, limited participation

Delano Howell *Neck Injury, guessing starts on PUP-DTR, 

Mike Adams

Sergio Brown

Colt Anderson


Cornerback (6)

Vontae Davis *Injured, Soft Tissue, Day-to-Day, expected to play in season opener.

Greg Toler

Darius Butler

Josh Gordy

Qua Cox (R) Marcus Burley(R)

Loucheiz Purifoy (R)


Special Teams (3)  **No Change**

Adam Vinatieri, K

Pat MacAfee, P

Matt Overton, LS


Risers: Herron, Newsome, Kerr, McNary, Burley

Falling: Rogers

Injuries to Watch: Landry, Davis, Holmes, Nixon, Reitz, Harrison

Bubble Players: Whalen, Purifoy, Saunders, Louis, Harnish, Rogers, Harvey

Final Thoughts

This is what I believe the roster will look like after the last two preseason games (Saints and Bengals) have been played.  It appears that Griff Whalen seems to be firmly entrenched as the number five receiver on the depth chart.  The coaching staff had him rest the entire Bengals game, while his counterpart Da’Rick Rogers played the entire game.  The game seemed to be a snapshot of Roger’s career currently in the the NFL.  He shows flashes of extreme talent, but also seems unrefined in his routes and some even question his effort.  The biggest issue is his maturity, as displayed in the last preseason game (punting the ball after catching a touchdown).  Do I think he blew his chance with the team, no, but I believe he is clearly at the bottom of the bubble, and if the team keeps an extra tackle, or guard, it would be at his expense. This would most likely land him on the practice squad, unless claimed by another team.  That’s why I think he starts on the roster, it’s hard to give up on talent like he has, but injuries could force the front office to take the chance.

The roster will undoubtedly go through more changes and I’m sure that I’m wrong on many of the categories.  After all as fans we are limited by what we see.  To quote Jim Mora, or along those lines, “You think you know, but you don’t!”  I just hope many of the decisions at the end are based upon effort and ability, but I also know it naïve to think those are the only factors.  We all know that factors such as: draft position, tenure, money are all factors that cause some players to be picked over others.  I really don’t envy the decisions that the front office has to make when deciding some of the last players on the roster.  Make no mistake, good players will get cut, it’s the nature of the business.  It’s interesting to think about what will happen and who will be there.  There won’t be a consensus when it comes to the roster, but remember there always bill an opportunity to debate what we like and what we don’t. 

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