For almost the entire first three games of the season, Colts outside linebackers Justin Hickman and Jerry Hughes were apart of filling the void missed by Dwight Freeney’s absence.
With the return of Freeney to the lineup against the Packers, those minutes for Hickman and Hughes seemed to be dwindling.
However, life in the NFL is lived on a week-by-week and the loss of outside linebacker Robert Mathis means the duo will continue to play significant roles.
Next man up?
“That’s what coach Pagano has been teaching since day one so I just have to come ready on Sunday,” Hickman said.
The past two games, Hickman has come ready to play contributing five tackles from his outside backer position.
Hughes has been productive as well with 10 tackles on the season including a sack against the Vikings.
The two were able to play more than normal during the regular season as the Colts rested Freeney and Mathis and their combined 21 years of NFL experience.
With the Pro Bowl duo in the lineup against the Packers, the Colts defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers five times on Sunday.
“We haven’t had Robert (Mathis) and Dwight (Freeney) out there at the same time except for six plays in the first game, and of course we got them out there in this past game,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “It’s always a pinch and that’s what the National Football League is. Those backup players have got to step up and they have to perform at a high level and that’s what we’re looking for.”
The scrip has flipped a bit with Hickman and Hughes now opposite Freeney, not Mathis, on Sunday.
Freeney will obviously miss Mathis, who has five sacks in four games this season, against the Jets and he knows that he will need to be a bit more vocal this weekend.
“I think the big thing is just communicating more with the other guy, whoever it is on the opposite side,” Freeney said.
“When Rob’s out there, there is not much that needs to be said. He understands what to do, where to be, we kind of mesh together pretty well. Whoever is going to be on the other side, it’s going to be kind of a rotation deal probably. I’ll probably and communicating a little more.”
Hickman knows the resume of the man missing from the Colts defense on Sunday and he looks at this weekend as simply another opportunity for a 27-year old man who made his NFL debut this season.
“I can’t fill his shoes obviously he’s been doing it for over a decade,” Hickman said. “I’ve got to come in, do my assignments, play hard and try and make some plays.”
Tags: Dwight Freeney, Jerry Hughes, Justin Hickman, robert mathis
Posted in Colts Blog