In transitioning to a 3-4 defense, the Colts face multiple problems involving their personnel. One of the biggest transitions will be the roles of quarterback terrorizers Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. We know they will be moved to outside linebacker, but beyond that, this is unknown territory for the two. They’ve been hand-on-the-ground DE’s for their entire career, with Freeney being the mainstay at LE since midway through 2002.
Well, recently, new head coach Chuck Pagano opened up about the role of Freeney, and it looks favorable for the three-time All-Pro.
“Suggs’ hand is in the dirt way more than he is standing up,” Pagano said. “I’d be crazy to have those guys dropping more than rushing. If I dropped Suggs too much, they probably would have fired me midseason.”
According to National Football Post, Pagano estimated that Suggs dropped into coverage between five and ten percent of the time. In 2012, look for Freeney to play a similar role. He (6-1, 268 lbs) and Suggs (6-3, 260 lbs) are of similar size, and both have a hunger for sacks. Suggs had tremendous success last year in this role, and unless Freeney’s body hits a wall, we should expect similar results from him.
The real question is what will happen to Robert Mathis. With Freeney playing the Suggs role, how will Mathis, who just signed a $36 million dollar contract, fit in? Will he play more coverage, or will Pagano utilize him on the other side of the line, giving that 3-4 very light ends?
That’s one of the most interesting points about the transition, and one I’ll be watching closely come training camp and the preseason.