There has been plenty of discussion since the San Diego Chargers added pass rusher extraordinaire Dwight Freeney to their roster about how he fits into the team’s defensive scheme. Much of that conversation has dealt with Freeney’s predisposition toward a 4-3 defense as opposed to a 3-4 alignment. While the Bolts have said that they will accommodate the sack master with multiple looks, the issue seems to be a bit overblown in the eyes of many within the organization.
Perhaps the most important figure on defense, defensive coordinator John Pagano, doesn’t feel as if the veteran with 107.5 career sacks will have any troubles fitting in. According to the team website, Pagano said:
“The difference between the 3-4 and the 4-3 is so minimal. He’s such a great player, I think you make him fit wherever he can fit in. The things that he does and what he’s done over the years, we’re so multiple in our fronts and different alignments that it gives us the ability now to do a lot more things that we as a defensive unit want to do. So I think from that standpoint it gives us the ability to be even more multiple now, and it gives us a guy that can put pressure off the edge.”
That kind of endorsement speaks volumes about the potential lift that the Bolts will get from Freeney as a pass rusher. After losing Melvin Ingram to a torn ACL in minicamp, the team was forced to think on its toes and find a quick replacement. General Manager Tom Telesco wasted no time in contacting Freeney, and his familiarity with the pass rusher paid off from their days with the Indianapolis Colts.
One of the team’s leaders on defense, safety Eric Weddle, noted the need for a move saying:
“It feels good to have him. Obviously adding someone of his stature and talent is good for our defense. Losing Melvin (Ingram) really hurt us, and we’re hoping him a speedy recovery, but we needed some depth and another player. You can’t really go wrong bringing in someone of (Freeney’s) caliber. Bringing him in will bolster the defense and will help us a lot.”
If numbers are where the proof needs to be, it’s tough to find many any better than Freeney’s 378 tackles, 107.5 sacks, 44 forced fumbles, 14 passes defensed and three interceptions. Even a guy like quarterback Philip Rivers on the other side of the ball is excited about him joining the squad, as Rivers said:
“It’s awesome to have him. I’ve competed against the guy numerous times and I’ve followed his career. He has almost 108 sacks, so it will be a great addition for us. He’s a veteran and a game changer as far as the types of plays he makes.”
Obviously the guys on defense agree with their leader on offense. Of the many to speak out in favor of the move, perhaps defensive end Corey Liuget’s commentary was the best as he said:
“When I found out I was like ‘Oh come on, is this really happening?’ He’s a beast and a guy that gets out there every day. I’m going to feed off of him and he’s going to feed off of me. I’m going to be able to get some sacks simply because he’s on the field. It’s going to be a great overall experience being with him this year.”
There’s no shortage of optimism and excitement from the Chargers coaches and players about Freeney’s potential impact with the team in 2013. Cautious optimism must be exercised after the decline in numbers that the veteran saw with the Colts last year when the team implemented a 3-4 system, but there is potential for other players to benefit from this move just by riding on Freeney’s coattails. Look for some serious sack production by the Bolts defense this coming year from the defensive line to the secondary.