Who becomes the Indianapolis Colts’ sack leader is wide open.
Eight players share the team lead with one entering Sunday’s home game against the New Orleans Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium. And that doesn’t include outside linebacker Trent Cole, who had 85.5 sacks in 10 years with Philadelphia.
The Colts obviously need to pick it up with their pass rush. They’re on pace for just 21 sacks, which would be the franchise’s smallest output since 1993.
Players will remind it’s all about getting the win, but there’s a sense of pride in the locker room about who ends up leading the team in certain statistics. And for defensive players, sacks help them get paid.
Outside linebacker Erik Walden had a career-high 6 sacks last season, but lamented a few that got away when rookie outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome finished with a team-high 6.5. They’re both among the eight with one so far. Newsome got his against the New England Patriots last week.
Newsome has been noticeably quiet for much of the season with just two quarterback hits. Walden has a team-high six quarterback hits, so he’s been closer.
If sizing up the field, the obvious favorite is outside linebacker Robert Mathis, the franchise record-holder with 112 sacks in 12 seasons. Some are wondering how much he can still make plays at 34 years of age, but he's been used strictly as a situational pass rusher so far. That’s meant 106 plays, or a little more than 17 per game. He got his sack at Tennessee in Week 3 and has had four quarterback hits, which is second to Walden.
The Colts have stuck to their plan of not allowing Mathis to do too much too soon due to his Achilles tendon tear 13 months ago, but head coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week No. 98 will play more against the Saints.
Defensive tackle Henry Anderson and nose tackle David Parry, the rookies from Stanford, will have their own good-natured competition between them. One wouldn’t think a rookie would lead the team in sacks, but then again, Newsome did it last year.
The other D-lineman on the list is defensive end Kendall Langford. He’s known more for being a run stuffer and has four tackles for loss, but Langford has 16.5 sacks in his eight-year career, so he would be a long shot to finish No. 1.
It also seems unlikely that safety Dwight Lowery or inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman would finish with the most sacks since they don’t rush the passer as much and made this list as a result of blitzes. But Freeman has the speed to get to the pocket in a hurry and it stands to reason the Colts are going to need to dial up more blitzes if they can’t get consistent pressure with the usual suspects.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.