When Dwight Freeney became a free agent early in the offseason, many people predicted he’d wind up playing for a 4-3 team that was looking for him to rush the passer from the spot he filled for all but one year with the Colts.
Part of that was based on Freeney being 33, which is often an age where a player moves into a situational role, and part was based on Freeney’s struggle to fulfill all of the responsibilities of an outside linebacker after Indy switched to a 3-4 scheme last season. An injury to outside linebacker Melvin Ingram opened up an opportunity in San Diego, however, and Freeney is about to start another season with a team that primarily runs the 3-4.
And he’ll again be asked to do everything that an outside linebacker has to do as opposed to concentrating solely on getting after the quarterback. Defensive coordinator John Pagano, brother of Colts coach Chuck, said that the team is looking for Freeney to be on the field every down.
“He’s going to be an every-down guy for us,” Pagano said, via Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. “Need him on first, second, third down. He’s going to play all downs. If you spot guys here and there, they never get into the defense. They never get the defense. They don’t understand the whole process of the defensive calls. That’s the mindset he has. Otherwise, you never learn the why. He is a why guy.”
The Chargers are expected to use Freeney in multiple looks so that he’s not as exposed at linebacker as he was last season, but a heavy workload may still take its toll on his effectiveness wherever Freeney lines up. The Chargers have an intriguing defensive line, but they’ll need pressure off the edge to take pressure off their defensive backs and asking Freeney to provide it consistently while playing most of the snaps is something less than a sure thing.