After a decade and more than 100 sacks as a 4-3 defensive end, Dwight Freeney is moving to outside linebacker in new coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defense. And he says that’s a bigger adjustment than some people might realize.
Freeney said on NFL Total Access that he has become so accustomed to lining up like a sprinter and going straight to the quarterback that he has a lot to learn now that he has more responsibilities at a different position.
“It’s going to be an adjustment for me,” Freeney said. “I’m a guy who is used to, as you know, hand down going one direction – that’s towards the quarterback, towards the running back and whoever is in the backfield. That line of sight is a comfort level for me when I have my hand down. Now I’m playing linebacker, they have some similarities but I’m also going to be dropping in space, running in the opposite direction from the quarterback. I know the coach is going to be yelling at me the first few weeks. Sometimes I’m probably going to fake dropping back and go in for the blitz. It’s going to be an adjustment. I’m excited for the challenge. It’s something new. People won’t be able to just blackboard me saying ‘This is where Dwight is going to line up and this is how we’re going to turn the protection.’ Now I get to move around a little bit so hopefully things work out.”
The Colts are a rebuilding team, and it would have been understandable if they had decided that it wasn’t worth asking a 32-year-old with a base salary of more than $14 million to learn a new position and had either traded or released Freeney. But Freeney said he always expected to remain in Indianapolis and that he’s excited to be contributing to the new-look Colts. This is a big adjustment that Freeney is glad to make.