Not that they need reminded of the statistic, the Indianapolis Colts’ defense has only one sack in two games.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are well aware of their own issues, that quarterback Chad Henne has been sacked an NFL-worst 13 times — six more than any other team.
When the winless AFC South Division rivals meet in the Sunshine State on Sunday, this particular aspect of Xs and Os sure looks like weakness vs. weakness. Something has to give, right?
The Colts began the season with the expectation that reigning sack champion Robert Mathis would return after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. His absence would provide an opportunity for 2013 first-round selection Bjoern Werner.
But now Mathis is expected to miss the season with a torn Achilles. And Werner has only one hurry in his two starts at outside linebacker.
Only Atlanta has failed to register a sack. The Colts are tied with St. Louis at 30th. If Werner or the Colts can’t get any sacks or generate consistent pocket pressure on Henne, one has to wonder, when will it happen?
NFL coaches rarely speak negatively of players they must rely upon. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday he expects the results to come for Werner.
“He’s just got to keep working,” Pagano said. “He’s just got to keep practicing, keep working and get better each and every week. It’ll come, just stick to the process, keep working, keep grinding, keep studying and it’ll come.”
The blueprint for Colts coordinator Greg Manusky’s 3-4 scheme is to bring pressure while the secondary clamps down on pass catchers and disrupts routes. But if the first part of that equation fails, then cornerbacks can’t cover guys forever. They’re going to eventually get open if quarterbacks have all day to throw.
The Colts have tried to blitz, and that helped produce the one sack, when outside linebacker Erik Walden cleaned up on Peyton Manning after blitzing linebacker Josh McNary couldn’t bring down the Denver quarterback but disrupted the play. Safety LaRon Landry and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman have one hurry apiece on a defense with just six.
When it was suggested defensive end Cory Redding, who has a team-high two hurries, might be the Colts’ best pass rusher, the 12th-year pro insisted, “We still have playmakers on that side of the ball and guys that can rush the passer. It’s all about opportunity, when it’s presented and making a play.”
The Colts resorted to moving Redding to outside linebacker at times in Monday night’s 30-27 home loss to Philadelphia.
“That was just different than what we were doing (the previous) week,” Redding said. “Last week was totally different because of their offense. This week, you’ll see me with my hands in the dirt.
“As big as I am, you’ve got to be able to put your hands in the dirt. Looking forward to it. I had a little fun, but you know what? It’s all about just making plays and just going out there and doing your job.”
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley conceded the Colts’ defense isn’t the same without Mathis, the franchise’s all-time sack leader with 111.
“It’s not some of the time now, it was all the time with him, run or pass,” Bradley said of Mathis.
The coach later added, “They’ve got some really good experience up front with Cory Redding leading the way. I think their pass rush, obviously it hurts without Mathis, but it’s not something that we’re overlooking.”
Obviously, considering Henne has gone down so often, 10 times in Sunday’s 41-10 loss at Washington and three times in a 34-17 opening loss at Philadelphia.
“Yeah, we’ve been bouncing around and we’re making some changes this week, getting some new guys in there,” Henne said, when asked about his O-line in a conference call with Indianapolis media. “We just need to find a way how to bond, how to play well together and put ourselves in the best situations out there.”
Pagano was asked on a conference call with Jacksonville media how his defense has been playing without Mathis.
“Well, we didn’t generate any sacks (Monday night), and I think the style of offense we faced, (the Eagles) made it awfully tough to pin your ears back so to speak and get after the quarterback,” he said. “We have more than enough capable guys, and we’ve got to do better.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.