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Know Thy Enemy: Robert Mathis

The second installment of a hopefully season-long series. This weekend, the Green Bay Packers will face the Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium. This post will focus on the Colts' Robert Mathis.

Mathis, a 5th round selection out of Alabama A&M in 2003, quickly broke onto the scene. He managed to record double-digit sacks despite starting only one game in 2004, and an impressive 6 forced fumbles. Since 2004, Mathis has recorded 60 sacks and 29 forced fumbles. The star DE has been named to three consecutive Pro Bowls (2008, 2009, 2010), and has been an exceptional accompaniment to fellow DE Dwight Freeney.

Mathis has been very impressive in terms of health (only nine missed games in eight seasons of play) and has truly developed into a star defensive end. While the Colts struggled due to crippling injuries to key offensive players (Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, and Anthony Gonzalez), Robert Mathis managed a very successful season, as he recorded 60 tackles, 11 sacks, and 1 forced fumble, starting all 16 regular season games for the second time in his career (along with Indianapolis's Wild Card Playoff Game).

Mathis started off the year by recording 5 tackles and a sack of Matt Schaub in Week 1. However, his efforts would be for naught; Indianapolis's rushing defense was ripped to pieces by one Arian Foster, who recorded 231 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on 7.0 YPC in a 34-24 Texans win. In Week 2, with the Colts facing the New York Giants, Mathis smacked down Eli Manning twice and forced a fumble, along with two other tackles as the Colts roasted the Giants 38-14. Against Denver n Week 3, Mathis recorded only two tackles, but managed to grab a sack.

Over the next two weeks, however, Robert Mathis wouldn't record a sack and managed 8 combined tackles before bursting out for 5 tackles and 1.5 sacks against Washington in a wild 27-24 win. After Indianapolis's Week 7 Bye, Mathis posted 3 tackles in a 30-17 win over the Houston Texans. Against Philadelphia the next week, Mathis recorded 3 tackles and a sack, but the Colts fell 26-24 to the Eagles. Robert would bag five tackles and a sack of Carson Palmer against the Bengals in Week 10.

Against the Patriots in New England in Week 11, Mathis was almost completely shut down by OT Sebastian Vollmer, recording 0 QB hits, 0 sacks, 2 tackles and 2 pressures. The next week against the San Diego Chargers, Mathis didn't reach Philip Rivers for a sack, but he managed 4 tackles in a 36-14 Indianapolis defeat. After two weeks of no sacks, Mathis found his way to Jon Kitna for his first sack since Week 10. However, the Colts lost 38-35 to the Cowboys in overtime.

Robert would record only two tackles the next week, in a 30-28 Indianapolis win over the Titans at LP Field, but he rebounded to record 4 tackles and a sack against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15. With the season winding down and the playoffs on the line (seriously), Mathis matched his season-high in tackles (6) and added 1.5 sacks against the Oakland Raiders; breaking the double-digit sack mark for the 4th time in his career. In the final week of the regular season, Mathis managed only two more tackles, but the Colts knocked out the Titans and clinched the AFC South. But the Colts' run to the playoffs ended on Wild Card Weekend; Mathis adding just 2 tackles in a 17-16 defeat at the hands of the New York Jets.

-Joe Baker's (of perspective on Robert Mathis

He's a Pro Bowl caliber end. An elite pass rusher with over 70 sacks and 30 fumbles forced the last 7 years. Obviously he benefits from Freeney playing opposite him and going against right tackles, but he's performed far too well to attribute much of his success to that. He's better in run D than you would expect for an end who is so undersized, but that's kind of damning him with faint praise. It's best to limit the snaps he gets on running downs, hopefully to get an end who is strong in run D on the field, but at least to keep him fresh for what he does best. Mathis is mostly about the speed rush, but will emulate Freeney's spin, can bull rush a tackle who is overplaying for the speed rush and might be better than Freeney at chopping the ball out of the QBs hands.While he's not one-dimensional he is far better as a rusher than in run D, but is in a system that is completely accepting of that.

Last year he started all 16 games for the 2nd time in his career and nearly matched his career high in sacks. After being used in more of a specialist role the previous few seasons he played more run defense than usual with his highest tackle count since 2006. Despite having his 3rd best year in sacks, he only forced a single fumble, the lowest total in his career by far. He had managed 3 FFs his rookie year despite having just 3.5 sacks and 18 tackles and averaged over 5 a year the previous 6 seasons. Barring a major injury (he's missed 9 games in 8 years, never more than 3 in a season) he's a safe bet for 9 to 11 sacks and force 4-6 fumbles. He's only failed to reach 9 sacks once in the last 7 years and his career high in sacks is 11.5.