Robert Mathis thinks “sky’s the limit” for Colts D

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Part of the reason the Colts were able to escape a 1-5 start and make the playoffs was the rapid improvement of their defense from terrible to decidedly un-terrible.

And that huge step has former pass-rusher and current assistant coach Robert Mathis excited about what comes next.

Mathis told Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star said he was impressed by how much ground coordinator Matt Eberflus and his defense was able to cover, as they finished in the top 10 in scoring defense, and no team in the league allowed fewer points over the last 10 weeks.

We exceeded a lot of expectations,” Mathis said. “People kind of said this was going to be a rebuild, but I never liked saying that word, I never accepted that. These players accepted the challenge, bought in early, and it was a top-10 defense at the end of the season. The sky’s the limit.”

While rookie linebacker Darius Leonard got (and deserved) most of the attention,  Denico Autry (nine), Margus Hunt (five) and Jihad Ward (three in half a season) had career-high sack totals last season. Throw in second-rounders Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis, who showed flashes but were hampered by injuries, and Mathis thinks he has a lot to work with.

The Colts also have cap room — more than $100 million, more than any team in the league — giving them the ability to add from outside as well.