INDIANAPOLIS — Robert Mathis doesn’t like to talk about himself. The Indianapolis Colts’ hard-charging outside linebacker may be leading the National Football League with 11.5 sacks this season, but he is the last person to talk about it.
Mathis prefers to let others talk about his on-field performance.
If you’re impressed that a 6-foot-2, 246-pound former defensive end who attended Alabama A&M is already being talked about as a candidate for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, great. If not, that’s okay too.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano -- who has worked with some of the league’s best defensive players during his stint as an assistant coach and coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens -- has long appreciated Mathis’ ability to rush the quarterback.
But this year, with former Indianapolis defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney now playing in San Diego, it seems as if Mathis has raised his game to another level.
Of course, he’s got a point to prove. Already one of the two sack leaders in Colts franchise history, Mathis grew tired last spring of hearing fans and NFL observers doubt his chances of equaling the success that he had with Freeney.
The conventional wisdom was that Freeney would draw double and sometimes triple-blocking schemes, leaving Mathis one-on-one with his blocker and making it easier to get to the quarterback. With his running mate moving on to the Chargers, most felt that Mathis wouldn’t have the same kind of impact.
They were right. He’s been even better.
Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak isn’t surprised.
“I’m not because I just know for years how difficult it was. A lot of attention was paid to Dwight and those type of things, but I can promise you in my time [as an assistant coach] in Denver and my time here in Houston, they’ve both been a problem as far as trying to get the ball gone and trying to help your tackles and those type of things. So no, it doesn’t surprise me. I think he’s played at an extremely high level throughout his career,” Kubiak said in a teleconference last week.