If you said prior to the start of the 2012 NFL season that Robert Mathis and Jerrell Freeman would be among the top two feared and most productive linebacking duos in the entire league, most would have called you insane.
Mathis was coming off of a successful career as a defensive end where he will go down as one of the best to ever play that position. But, the Indianapolis Colts got a complete overhaul in the offseason entering the ’12 season where a totally new defensive scheme was put in place, and Mathis would have to play as an outside linebacker. That’s a position he’s never played before.
Most thought this experiment would fail as they were going to push him and Dwight Freeney out in Indianapolis.
With Freeman, no one knew who he was. The Colts found him from the CFL, and fans wondered why he was starting in Week 1. After returning an interception for a touchdown early on in the game against the Chicago Bears in Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season, he was quickly put on people’s maps.
Now, five games into the 2013 season, this duo is one of the most feared in the league.
Freeman, who led the Colts in tackles last year, is picking up where he left off. He already has 43 tackles this season, which again leads the team. He is second on the team with three sacks as well as he is literally everywhere on the field. Mathis is third on the team with 24 tackles and is leading the NFL with 9.5 sacks so far. That total is the second-most ever through five games in an NFL season as he’s getting to the opposing quarterback with ease.
These two have 67 tackles and 12.5 sacks between them already, and there’s still 11 games left for the Colts. Their success has turned this once horrid Colts defense around. Indianapolis ranks fifth in PPG on defense (15.8) and 11th in total defense. They also are getting a good pass rush with these two leading the way as the 201.4 yards per game they give up through the air ranks them sixth out of 32 teams.
Their rush has allowed Indianapolis to have 15 sacks and seven interceptions so far. This duo is going to be feared over the next several years.
Eric Smith is the Colts Beat Writer for Rant Sports. He’s covered the team the past for seasons and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru