Colts’ Sheard attempting to put new spin on old tricks – The Herald Bulletin

Posted: August 8, 2017 at 7:41 pm


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INDIANAPOLIS It will be difficult if not impossible for any Indianapolis Colts pass rusher in the foreseeable future to escape Robert Mathis' oversized shadow.

So it seems noteworthy that Jabaal Sheard is actively seeking it out.

One of first-year general manager Chris Ballard's biggest offseason acquisitions, Sheard has spent nearly every free moment at Mathis' side since practice began in the spring.

It's not uncommon to see the franchise's all-time sacks leader donning conical pads on both arms while sparring with Sheard on the sideline. The excercise is designed to improve Sheard's hand quickness one factor that could further amplify the 28-year-old's natural power.

But there's another move Sheard would love to master.

"First, I'm trying to learn that spin from him," the outside linebacker said with a laugh. "That's a whole other ... he's a freak of nature at that."

Sheard might not soon be bending his 6-foot-3, 265-pound frame perpendicular to the turf as he turns the corner in attempt to beat an offensive tackle.

But he is picking up tricks from Indianapolis' most famous volunteer assistant coach.

"Being around a GOAT like that, somebody that's been around the game and who's led the team in sacks, led the league in sacks (is a big help)," Sheard said, using a popular acronym to identify Mathis as one of the greatest of all time. "Any time you get a chance to work with him one on one, you want to."

The Colts are hoping all of those private lessons pay dividends.

Ballard has remodeled the Indianapolis defense into a younger, faster and more athletic unit. But there still are questions about where the primary pass rush will come from.

Sheard had a career-high 8.5 sacks as a rookie with Cleveland in 2011, and he had a combined 13 sacks in a rotational role with New England over the past two seasons.

The seventh-year veteran signed with the Colts in part because of the scheme. He wants to see what he can produce in the rush linebacker role popularized by Mathis in Indianapolis and Terrell Suggs in Baltimore.

Training camp is just a week old, but Colts head coach Chuck Pagano who coached both Mathis and Suggs in this scheme likes what he's seen thus far from Sheard.

"He doesn't say a whole lot," Pagano said of the soft-spoken defender. "He demands (a lot), in his own way, of himself and his teammates. But he's a big, physical guy. He's a good pass rusher. I wouldn't be surprised to see him have double-digit sacks for us this year."

Sheard's size and physicality also should make him a force in the run defense.

And the Pitt product isn't interested in individual numbers.

He was a part of Patriots teams that went to the AFC Championship Game and won the Super Bowl in the past two years, and winning is the only measurement he'll use for success.

If statistical glory comes along with that, all the better.

"I think every defensive end's goal is to get double-digit sacks," Sheard said. "Since I've been in the league, that's been one of my goals. If that helps the team win, hopefully (it will be achieved). But if it doesn't and that's not my job; my job is stopping the run that's what I'm gonna focus on.

"Anything I can do to help the team, that's what I'm here for."

Pagano figures that will be plenty.

He raves about Sheard's length and leverage. And he dreams of setting the big man loose on third down to chase opposing quarterbacks.

"He's hard to block," Pagano said.

If Sheard gets his way, that task eventually will become even more difficult.

He's been watching film of Mathis and former running mate Dwight Freeney since he came into the NFL as a second-round draft pick.

And he's not giving up on discovering the secret to their success.

"That spin move is gonna take a lot to learn," Sheard said. "And I'm gonna keep working at it."

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Colts' Sheard attempting to put new spin on old tricks - The Herald Bulletin

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August 8th, 2017 at 7:41 pm

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