It is time for outside linebacker Erik Walden to start feeling the heat. He is now more than a year into his contract, and it wouldn’t cost the Indianapolis Colts much to release him after the season is over.
Not to mention that there are a lot of young and hungry players behind him, itching to make an impact.
Bjoern Werner, Jonathan Newsome, Daniel Adongo, Cam Johnson, Andy Studebaker and potentially more to come.
The fire Walden is facing becomes a little bigger when you include the fact that Mathis will be serving a four game suspension. It means increased playing time for the young guys and more chances to prove themselves.
Walden did next to nothing as a pass rusher last season, with only three sacks, and wasn’t bad at setting the edge, but wasn’t great either.
These young guys were either not in the league, still learning the game, or adapting to professional football last season. Combine that with the fact that the ink on Walden’s contract was still fresh, and you knew that he wasn’t going to be under much heat in his first season.
But now is the time for Walden to put up or shut up or Pagano will start chanting his motto of next man up, or so I hope.
The Colts need to address their pass rush and Walden has to be a key component of that. He can’t put up a measly three sacks again. That should be his total after Mathis’ suspension is up.
A lot of people were upset about this signing when it first happened, including myself. But as the season wore on, I didn’t mind it as much. He was a solid contributor and helped a little in run defense and pass coverage, not that they were great in either category.
However, if he doesn’t start producing in one of the most important aspects of the game this season, the crowd that wants Walden gone will only increase.
Werner is going to have a chance to start in Mathis’ wake and prove that he belongs as his running mate once he returns. Adongo is still learning the game, Newsome is a rookie looking to make an impact and Johnson is an unknown that may well be a decent contributor.
Studebaker is a journeyman and mainly a special teamer, but I remember seeing him get in on a few snaps and he wasn’t bad either. Though, he may not be the biggest of Walden’s worries.
It is time for Walden to produce like a real outside linebacker, and get to the quarterback. This will be especially crucial for the Colts, because they will be facing the aerial attacks of the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles in weeks 1 and 2.
Whatever happens, I hope the Colts coaching staff makes their decision based on skill and potential production, and not on who is getting paid the most. We will just have to wait and see how all this unfolds heading into the 2014 season. Go Colts!