Colts linebackers were a mixed bag during the 2015 season

INDIANAPOLIS -- The good news for the Indianapolis Colts is that their sack leader was linebacker Robert Mathis.

Now to the other side of things.

The Colts have no choice but to get younger at linebacker. One of their starters, Jerrell Freeman, is about to be a free agent. The other three starters -- Erik Walden, D’Qwell Jackson and Mathis -- are all in their 30s.

The Colts get the majority of their pass rush from their linebackers and they finished with only 35 sacks this season. Owner Jim Irsay has already acknowledged that they have to get younger players on the roster.

Robert Mathis

2015 stats: 20 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 1 TD

Rewind: Mathis was the second-best story behind 40-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for the Colts. He returned to the field after missing the entire 2014 season due to injuries and a suspension to lead the Colts in sacks, proving he could still be productive at age 34.

Going forward: Mathis will be back, but needs more help in the pass-rush department. He’ll be 35 years old at the end of February.

Trent Cole

2015 stats: 32 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

Rewind: Ouch! This goes in the category of free-agent moves that didn’t pan out for the Colts. They signed Cole, a former Philadelphia Eagle, with the thought that he would help pressure the quarterback. It didn’t happen. Cole didn’t get his first sack of the season until Nov. 29 against Tampa Bay.

Going forward: It will not be surprising if Cole is released.

D’Qwell Jackson

2015 stats: 150 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD

Rewind: The 32-year-old Jackson has led the Colts in tackles in each of his first two seasons with the team. He and Mathis are the two leaders of the defense.

Going forward: Expect Jackson to be one of the Colts’ leading tacklers next season.

Erik Walden

2015 stats: 42 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Rewind: Walden has improved in each of his three seasons with the Colts. The team values his ability to set the edge in helping stop the run.

Going forward: Walden will be 31 years old next season and the Colts don’t have anyone on the roster expected to take his starting spot.

Jerrell Freeman

2015 stats: 112 tackles, 3.0 sacks 1 INT, 1 TD

Rewind: Freeman has finished first or second on the Colts in tackles in each of his four seasons. After playing all 16 games in each of his first two seasons, Freeman missed five games due to injuries the past two seasons.

Going forward: Freeman is the lone free agent in the starting group. There’s a chance another team could offer Freeman more money than the Colts are willing to pay him.

Bjoern Werner

2015 stats: 13 tackles

Rewind: Disappointment. That’s the only way to put it when it comes to the Colts’ 2013 first-round pick. Werner went from starting during the regular season in 2014, to being inactive in the AFC Championship Game of the 2014 season, to switching to strongside linebacker and being inactive six times this season.

Going forward: You have to wonder if the Colts are considering cutting ties with Werner because he’s not improving the way some thought he would.

Nate Irving

2015 stats: 14 tackles, 1.0 sack

Rewind: The Colts signed the former Denver Bronco with the thought that he would bounce back from a knee injury in 2014 and be ready to replace Jackson or Freeman at middle linebacker. But injury problems followed Irving to Indianapolis. He played in just eight games this season.

Going forward: The Colts still like Irving’s potential, but the biggest question mark is whether he can remain healthy.

Sio Moore

2015 stats: 13 tackles

Rewind: The Colts acquired Moore from the Oakland Raiders right before Week 1 with the vision that he could play any of the linebacker positions if called upon. Moore’s most memorable play of the season was when he knocked Houston quarterback Ryan Mallett out of the Week 5 game.

Going forward: Moore has talent, but he has to put it all the together the same way he did when he had 140 tackles through his first two seasons with the Raiders.

Jonathan Newsome

2015 stats: 19 tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 forced fumbles

Rewind: There was so much hope and optimism heading into the season for Newsome after he led the Colts in sacks (6.5) as a rookie. But Newsome regressed in his second season. The opportunity was there for him because the Colts badly needed help pressuring the quarterback. He failed to take advantage of those chances.

Going forward: Newsome will likely get a fresh start with a new defensive coordinator.

Josh McNary

2015 stats: 14 tackles

Rewind: The Colts re-signed McNary after he was acquitted of rape, criminal confinement and battery charges. He started one game, but was primarily a special-teams player.

Going forward: The Colts value McNary’s special-teams experience.