Today’s mailbag question comes to us from twitter user, @Coach_JMT. Thanks for your question, and feel free to ask us anything at @cover32_SD.
@cover32_SD What kind if impact, if any, can we expect out of Dwight Freeney this year; after only making 4 appearances last season?
— John Tomczak (@Coach_JMT) July 30, 2014
Well John, I would like to refer you to a piece I wrote a few weeks ago about Freeney’s on-field impact in 2013. I did a little research into the statistics behind the four games he played for the Chargers last season and was surprised by what I found. Listening to X’s and O’s experts talk about Freeney, the general consensus was that he was very effective rushing the passer before getting hurt. While this may not have been reflected in his sack total (0.5), it certainly was shown in one statistical category — QB Hurries (he had 15). I am of the camp believing Freeney would have eventually started to rack up the sack numbers as the season progressed. We will never know, but we can begin to assume the type of impact he will have in San Diego this year.
The good news starts with the timing of his injury. Freeney suffered a torn quad on September 29th of last year. So by the time he suits up for the Chargers this year, he will be over 10 months removed from the injury. Freeney himself admitted he has been raring to go (while being held back by the trainers). At 34, he’s not going to be the same player he once was, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be one of the premier pass rushers in the league.
The motivation will be there. The former Indianapolis Colt is in a contract year, and playing on a team likely to make the playoffs. The skill will also be there. Freeney has tallied over 100 career sacks by more than just athletic prowess. He is a smart player, and one King Dunlap admitted can “beat you just from looking at you.” And it’s this mental edge where the impact of Dwight Freeney will really be felt this season.
He may not have 10 sacks, and he may only play 50-75 percent of the snaps on defense, but he will be the most valuable asset in the defensive front seven. Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaochu, it’s time to take notes. Whether Freeney has a monster year or not, his biggest value comes in teaching the youngsters on this Chargers defense the techniques necessary to beat offensive tackles. In college, Ingram collected 21.5 sacks while Attaochu amassed a ridiculous 31.5 sacks. Both of these players have the potential, but need to make the same leap players like Freeney have in an NFL uniform. In this mentor/teacher role is where I really believe we will see the veteran excel in 2014.
The other good news for San Diego comes in depth and (hopefully) health. Freeney played in only the first four games of the season, Ingram played in only the last four, and Jarret Johnson only started nine. If this unit can stay healthy, and utilize the rookie from Georgia Tech, San Diego may have one of the more surprising pass rush groups in the entire league. Dwight Freeney will be the leader, and with younger players keeping him fresh, he could be the key to improving the abysmal Chargers’ passing defense of last season.