ILB Starter(s): Jerrell Freeman, D'Qwell Jackson
Reserve(s): Josh McNary, Andrew Jackson, Henoc Muamba
The Colts added D'Qwell Jackson to the roster in free agency to start alongside upstart Jerrell Freeman. While I've been cautious of Jackson, who is aging and overpaid, he's clearly an upgrade over a hobbled Pat Angerer and a disappointing Kelvin Sheppard.
In fact, Sheppard may not even make the team this season, at least, not if former CFL linebacker Henoc Muamba plays well. Muamba was signed to a three-year contract by Indianapolis, with $107,000 guaranteed. That's extremely uncommon for a guy with no NFL experience coming out of Canada. The Colts clearly think he can play, and they may not want to risk losing him to a waiver claim.
Sheppard continued to get snaps through the end of last year, despite his struggles, but sixth-round draft pick Andrew Jackson and Muamba have legitimate chances to beat him out. Fans should be hoping that they do, if only to provide a higher level of talent to the linebacking corp.
OLB Starter(s): Erik Walden, Bjoern Werner
Reserve(s): Jonathan Newsome, Cam Johnson, Robert Mathis*
With Mathis suspended for the first four games of the season, I have Cam Johnson making the team in his place. But taking his place on the field is second-year player Bjoern Werner, who struggled last season.
Werner was taken in the first round last season in order to eventually replace Mathis as the primary pass-rusher on the team, and 2014 is his chance to live up to some of those expectations.
The Colts' fifth-round selection from Ball State, Newsome could be a dark horse to give the Colts a pass-rushing boost. It's difficult to predict such a thing, as rookie pass-rushers drafted that late rarely produce during their rookie year, but stranger things have happened.