Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are probably one of the best defensive end tandems in the league. The Freeney-Mathis combo has reeked havoc on opposing team’s offensive lineman and quarterbacks for the past decade.
After playing under a 4-3 defense for their whole career, both Freeney and Mathis will be making a new transition now as the Indianapolis Colts rebuild. Both defensive ends saw their quarterback gone and in with a new guy from Stanford. They also lost out on their team captain, Gary Brackett, along with many others now gone.
Now both players will be experiencing a new defense: the 3-4. Both aren’t big enough to still play on the line, and with that, they’ll be the guys doing the dirty work on the outside being pass-rushing linebackers.
Although it does seem like a tough transition for some, such as Aaron Kampman of the Green Bay Packers, who had his career fall as he couldn’t make a smooth move to the 3-4. However, some have been able to succeed, such as Mario Williams and Elvis Dumervil.
Mathis and Freeney are one of the fastest defensive ends in the league and they are able to make the change. They like the change.
“We have something fresh, something new,” Freeney told the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. “The possibilities are endless. This defense is a proven defense. Look at San Francisco, the Steelers, the Ravens. They’re always in the top 5 in defense every year. The proof is in the pudding. It’s matter of us getting it down.”
The Colts are a new team now and Mathis and Freeney plan to be new, different and better players. So far, it’s looking good making the new transition and Mathis likes the feel of feeling more loose and mobile on the gridiron.
“(Standing up) is different,” Mathis said, “but I’m starting to get used to it. I’m liking it. You can see more. It’s not about your head is down and you’re taking off and going. You can see more. You play a lot looser standing up.”
With them playing linebacker, they’ll have some moments for the first time in their careers where they may guard positions like running backs, tight ends and even wide receivers in pass-protection. With that, there’s always a good chance of getting an interception, or better yet, a pick-6.
Although it won’t be as unusual as Vince Wilfork did it, but it’ll still look cool. Both were asked on who would be most likely to pull the move off.
“I don’t know,” Freeney said. “That’s a good point. I’ll bring that up to (Mathis). I haven’t spoken to him about that because we’re more about sacks than interceptions, but I will.”
None of them have had an interception in their career. Both have had fumbles, however. One of Mathis’ most famous highlights, as a matter of fact, was a game-winning fumble recovery for a touchdown over the Cleveland Browns a few years back.
But they’re always about sacks, and they’re damn good at it, too. Freeney has already totaled 102 sacks. Mathis is not far behind, having 83.5.
So far, head coach Chuck Pagano is happy with the veterans’ progress. Pagano brought over the 3-4 to the Colts after having much success doing so these past few years in Baltimore, serving as the Ravens defensive coordinator.
“They’ve done a great job, mostly because they’ve been here (at all the organized team activities). Their attendance has been phenomenal. We knew there would be a little bit of a learning curve and the fact they’re having to do all sorts of different things, like drop into coverage. They’ve done a tremendous job. They’ve picked it up really well.”
Freney and Mathis are looking to be the dynamic duo once again.
“Look at what I do. It won’t be that different than what I do,” says Freeney.
It’s just gonna look different, but at the same time, much faster. That’s a scary thought being a quarterback.