So, who’s ready to see what Jack Mewhort is made of? In a stroke of very unenviable luck, guard Donald Thomas tore his quad again in yesterday’s practice – the same injury that ended his 2013 season.
With Thomas’s unfortunate situation comes a new starter (at least for now) in the rookie from [the] Ohio State. With Mewhort in the lineup alongside Khaled Homes at center and Hugh Thornton at the other guard position, the Colts interior line now looks especially green, with Thornton’s the only NFL starting experience.
On Monday, Chuck Pagano spoke of the Mewhort by quickly listing several stock phrases for guys who aren’t expected to be on the field much. “The guy loves football,” he said. “Again, we talk about gym rat guys, guys that are passionate. He’s tough; he’s smart, position flexibility. He brings a lot to the table.”
Yep, he used everything but a lunch pail or blue-collar reference, but now, unless he proves to be wholly and shockingly unready, Mewhort’s the guy, just as Thornton had to be when Thomas went down last year.
The hope for Colts fans (and the organization, of course) will be that Thornton, who struggled at times last season, can build on what he did well, and that Mewhort is a quick learner.
The rookie certainly sounds as though he’s mentally in the right place. “There can’t be any indecision, any discrepancy because that’s when you’re apprehensive, slow and get beat,” Mewhort said of the speed of the NFL game. “So I’d say just knowing your playbook and knowing your techniques on certain plays is a huge part of it.”
Some of the struggles Thornton had last year as a rookie fill-in can be attributed to difficulties at the center position, which sometimes caused him to try to do too much. If new starter Khaled Holmes can improve center play to somewhere around average or better – allowing Mewhort and Thornton to focus solely on their own assignments – these two young guards could thrive, or at least hold their own this year.
Robert Mathis’s wife gave birth to little Brielle Emma-Rose Mathis on July 19th. We all know that while Mathis the professional wishes things had gone differently with his fertility treatment suspension, Mathis the husband and father has no regrets.
Nevertheless, his four-game suspension puts second year player Bjoern Werner in the driver’s seat at outside linebacker for the first month of the upcoming season, and no matter the reason, working with the first team is a tremendous benefit for a young player.
“It’s awesome, every time you get reps with the first team, you get so much better, communication is on a different level, it’s important,” Werner said yesterday. “I want to be that guy to step up and I’m lucky I get all those reps to communicate with the teammates out there.”
Werner will have a chance to prove himself while Mathis is out and try to earn more playing time, perhaps opposite #98, as the season progresses. For now, however, it’s just about learning and continually trying to improve. “The learning curve never stops,” Werner said of his second year in the Colts’ defensive scheme. “You learn every year more and more. The more you play, the more experience you get, and the more comfortable you get. I try to pick up as much as possible even if I know the whole playbook, there is always different formations coming up, and you have to pick it up. I have to know them.”
…And learning whatever he can from Mathis himself: “There is a lot, let’s say one thing,” Werner said when asked about what Mathis has taught him. “Off the field stuff, film study. That’s a big thing, when you go into the game weeks, studying the offensive tackle. The more you know about the tackle than he knows about you; you have the edge already going into the game.”
The pressure undoubtedly is on Werner to produce in September. Without a viable pass rushing threat, the entire defense suffers. Quarterbacks have more time to throw (obviously), receivers have more time to get open, and the team has to turn to blitzes at inopportune times, opening up more opportunities for opposing offenses.
If Werner can cause some trouble for offensive tackles and quarterbacks, it’ll go a long way toward avoiding a defensive disaster without the team’s top pass rusher – and improving his own chances of earning more playing time after Mathis returns.
D’Qwell Jackson on Jerrell Freeman: “The linebacker crew is solid. I tell you what, we’re solid. Just seeing, playing next to Jerrell Freeman, I always watched him. I’ve been playing a while, but I’m also a fan of the game as well so I knew about Jerrell before I actually signed. I actually followed him, so to actually see him and see what he’s capable of, how physically gifted he is and how smart he is, the sky is the limit for him.”
Coby Fleener on third down and red zone improvement: “Despite being small percentages of the game, those plays are really impactful in the outcome so we need to improve on those. I think we were kind of mediocre last year. We really want to move towards the top of the NFL.”
Pagano on Josh Chapman: “Yeah, he went home, he progressed in the offseason. He went home, dropped some weight. He’s better than he’s ever been. He’s got complete confidence coming off the injury that he came in with. He doesn’t even think about that anymore. He’s starting to make plays that we saw early on the tape when we started evaluating him back in college. He’s still got, he’ll tell you, he’s got a long way to go, but he’s getting better every single day.”
All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.