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.
Mathis looks like he is better at dropping back in coverage than Freeney anyways, I think the most interesting thing will be to see what happens when we rotate guys around, I hope Hughes steps his game up this season...
@paulcareyjr No offense, but how do we reach this conclusion? I can't think of *any* times that Mathis has dropped back into coverage. He and Freeney have, to the best of my knowledge, always been set loose to do nothing but rush the passer.
If I'm wrong, I'll accept that. It's just that I have zero recollection of any times that Mathis has dropped back to cover passes.
@AJ_ was not really making that comment off of him dropping back much in the past but more along the lines that he seems less stiff than Freeney, and more agile. I do remember times where I saw these guys having outside contain and having to move laterally with the RB on screen plays, and in those cases Mathis just seemed more comfortable doing that, along with switching directions.
But this is just what I have noticed.
You got me very confused saying Freeney is a LE. I wondered if I had been hallucinating during these past 10 years watching games and playing Madden.
Robert Mathis tweeted a couple of weeks back that Freeney would play the Suggs role and he would play the Jarret Johnson role.
@aerichner For those who don't know a lot of JJ, he was primarily the one who dropped into coverage most often. However he did get plenty of opportunities to rush the passer (though not really well).
Dropping Mathis into coverage routinely is an enormous waste of a premier pass rusher. Pagano must know this, or else he wouldn't have made the comment about being a half-season coach if he didn't rush Suggs. I see a more likely role of having Freeney essentially play DE and Mathis play a rush OLB.
@Payton @rebuild2012 This is true, but at the same time, in *Indianapolis's* 4-3's before Pagano, Mathis didn't do any dropping back at all that I can remember (as noted above: If I'm wrong about this, I'll admit to a mistake, but someone needs to show me I'm wrong). A case can be made that any field time Mathis is given where he's not rushing the passer is time that's wasted.
At the same time, a case can be made that his presence alone is enough to cause blockers to be dedicated to his side, so that even if he doesn't rush, he gets the job done by decoying the opponent to putting blockers where they do no good. I can understand that argument, seeing it's the foundation of the 3-4 scheme to begin with (i.e disguise where the pressure comes from), but I'm not really fond of it: Mathis doesn't get sacks when he's not rushing, and sending someone else through means sending someone less talented at sacking the QB to do the job. I'd rather have Mathis doing that job than any of our current crop of LB's, and it'll take a while before there are any LBs drafted and developed that I'd trust equally.
Meh. I don't know. Pagano and Manusky are professionals who's job depends on them understanding how to make use of talent, so I'm the first to admit that I may be worrying about nothing. They'll find a way; an NFL level coach and DC is talented enough to do so. But still, that doesn't change the fact that, when working from first principles, I reach conclusions that end up making me be a little concerned. I simply can't deny that. I'm just taking solace in the fact that those two guys know way more than me, and are invested in making sure that they find a way to use Mathis effectively. Their job is not to fail. And that's cause to believe that he'll be used effectively, somehow, even if it's in a way I don't yet understand.
@rebuild2012 That's assuming a 3-4 lineup. In a 4-3, Jarret Johnson rushed more than he went into coverage