Robert Mathis: A
Prior to the season, we wondered if Mathis would be able to have success as a pass-rusher without Dwight Freeney across from him. Mathis had never had this little help when it comes to pass rush, and there were legitimate concerns about him being able to handle that kind of attention.
All that seems a bit silly now, as Mathis came out and had his most statistically impressive season ever. Mathis finished with 19.5 sacks, the most in the league, broke Freeney’s career and single-season franchise records and moved into the top 20 all time in career sacks.
But, again, it wasn’t just the total sacks that was so impressive for Mathis. He was stouter against the run than his past reputation and he had zero help in the pass-rush department, something other Defensive Player of the Year candidates didn’t have to deal with.
By forcing fumbles and changing games, Mathis wasn’t only the Colts’ pass rush this season, he was their entire defense.
Jerrell Freeman: B
Freeman probably deserves higher than this, but it’s difficult to lavish too much praise on a player who has disappeared for entire games this season, especially against the run. Nevertheless, Freeman finished with the team lead in forced turnovers and tackles, was second in sacks and forced fumbles and was third in interceptions.
When he was on, he was all over the field and was one of the Colts’ best turnover creators. His emergence as a blitz weapon this season has really rounded out his play well, and he’ll be a long-term piece for Indianapolis’ defense.
Pat Angerer: C-
Props to Angerer for fighting through an injury all season, but the young linebacker was ineffective for most of the season and was eventually benched in favor of surgery. Angerer, like Freeman, disappeared at times, especially behind bigger offensive lines, and won’t be a long-term answer at inside linebacker.
Erik Walden: B-
So, Walden didn’t finish with as poor of a season as was feared he might when he signed his four-year, $16 million contract this offseason. Walden still isn’t a great player and desperately needs to improve his pass rushing to be a viable long-term option as a starter, but he is decent enough against the run and in coverage that you can live with (although not be happy with) his contract.