How will Colts sort out pass-rush rotation?

Outside linebacker Erik Walden says performance will speak for itself when Colts determine who plays where in August.

As his Indianapolis Colts teammates packed their bags for offseason getaways, outside linebacker Erik Walden spoke of when it will be time to get back to work.

Like everyone else, he had plans to enjoy the break between mini-camp and training camp, but the eighth-year pro sounded anxious for the upcoming NFL season.

One of the many questions about the defense is the pecking order for the pass rush. A lot of that hinges on the eventual return of outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who is on the mend from a 2014 season-ending Achilles injury.

Walden had a career-high six sacks last season, a half sack behind rookie Jonathan Newsome for the team lead. Despite not having Mathis, the Colts generated 41 sacks in their blitzing 3-4 scheme.

Then the team signed outside linebacker Trent Cole in free agency. Cole, Walden and Newsome form the pass-rush core without Mathis. When the franchise’s all-team sack leader returns, the Colts have a deeper rotation to sort out.

“I don’t worry about that,” Walden said after the final mini-camp practice on June 11. “My play, it will speak for itself.”

The Colts signed Walden in 2013 for his ability to set the edge in run defense. He’s had nine sacks — half of his career total — in the past two seasons.

“This is a good time to get your feet wet a little bit,” he said of offseason training activities. “When we come back, that’s who will reveal who will be in that position. You’re not really defined until you get the pads on, so I don’t really worry about that kind of stuff.”

The Colts were 18th in run defense and that weakness was exposed in a 45-7 AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots in January. The Patriots ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

Steps were taken to address this area in free agency as the Colts signed run-stuffing inside linebacker Nate Irving and defensive end Kendall Langford. But have the Colts done enough to improve?

Players report Aug. 1 to Anderson University for training camp.

“Definitely, it’s different every year,” Walden said. “We just want to make sure we’re doing everything in our power to getting better and (preparing for) this run we’re about to make. We’ve just got to take it a day at a time, week at a time.”

He didn’t hesitate when asked if he blocks out the noise about the Colts being Super Bowl contenders.

“Absolutely,” Walden said. “Yeah, we don’t care. We ain’t worried about that. Everybody feels like they’re a Super Bowl contender right now, all 32 teams, but you’ve got to go ahead and show it. We’ll always feel that way, no matter what.”

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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