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What Happens If Freeney (High Ankle Sprain) Can’t Play?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 13, 2012 – 5:04 pm

For the last 11 seasons, Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts has been one of the most productive defenders in the NFL. He has 102.5 career sacks and has registered double-digits sacks in 7 of his 10 seasons. That’ why it was surprising to see Freeney fail to register a single statistic in the Colts season-opener last week in Chicago.

Upon closer review, though, you’ll notice that Freeney only played 9 snaps against the Bears because an ankle injury took him out of action. Reports surfaced earlier this week that Freeney had the dreaded high ankle sprain, an injury that typically keeps players out for multiple weeks.

Freeney has missed two straight days of practice because of the injury, a sign that Freeney may indeed be out of this weekend’s game against the Vikings. Although Freeney is in the midst of a position change from DE to LB as new Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano transitions the defense away from a 4-3 look and into a new 3-4 scheme, the 11-year veteran will still be a productive player and a player for whom opposing teams will need to game plan.

Speaking with reporters earlier in the week, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged that Freeney’s absence would have a direct impact on how the Vikings go about attacking the Colts defense.

“I have a lot of respect for Dwight, just going back to my days in Indy as well,” Frazier explained. “And I can remember teams completely changing how they approached us because of Dwight, so it wouldn’t be any different (for the Vikings). He’s a major factor. He’s in his 11th season in the League, but he still is a guy you have to pay attention to and you better know where he is at all times. It would definitely make a different if he is not on the field.

At this point in time, all signs point to Freeney missing the game. But we won’t know for sure until 90 minutes prior to kickoff, which is when teams are required to designate their inactive players for the game. Losing Freeney would obviously be a blow to Indianapolis’ defense. But the cupboard is not bare behind Freeney.

Here’s a look at two players who would help fill the void if Freeney can’t go on Sunday…

Mario Addison
Beginning his second NFL season after going undrafted out of Troy in 2011, Addison will get a good look at the position if Freeney doesn’t play. He was on the field for 21 snaps following Freeney’s injury last Sunday, and while he didn’t record a statistic, you have to figure a jump in performance is due after playing most of last week and then practicing all of this week. Addison measures in at 6-3, 257 pounds and wears jersey #97.

Jerry Hughes
A 1st-round pick (#31 overall) of the Colts the draft after their last Super Bowl appearance (2010), Hughes entered the League out of TCU as a defensive end. He wasn’t a great fit as a DE in the Colts old defensive scheme, but he might be a great fit as an outside LB in the Colts new scheme. The only problem has been that he’s playing behind an All-Pro. If that All-Pro is injured, Hughes will get a shot to produce. Hughes, who measures in at 6-2, 254 pounds, played 56 defensive snaps after Freeney went down in Chicago last week, and he figures to get plenty more snaps this week at home against the Vikings. Hughes wears jersey #92


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Line Change: Vikings DL Rotation Proved Effective

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 13, 2012 – 12:23 pm

Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams is new to Minnesota. But it didn’t take him long to find a beloved state pastime to use as an analogy in explaining one of his defensive philosophies.

Williams explained during training camp that he’ll use a rotation at defensive line throughout the season, comparing his substitution patterns to that of a hockey lineup.

“I said before that this is Minnesota, we’re going to have a hockey lineup so we need eight guys to come in and play for us and play well,” Williams said. “We’ll have guys that are rotating and we expect whatever that rotation is for guys to play winning football.”

The philosophy was in play last week in the Vikings season-opening win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Vikings four starting defensive linemen – DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison and DTs Letroy Guion and Kevin Williams – took the bulk of the snaps, but Christian Ballard, Fred Evans, Everson Griffen and D’Aundre Reed were in the mix as well. Griffen logged 33 defensive snaps, Evans 18, Ballard 17 and Reed 4. The Vikings at one time actually had four defensive ends on the field at once, looking to apply pressure to QB Blaine Gabbert late in the game.

Were Vikings coaches pleased with the production of the defensive line?

“Oh yeah,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “And the more I looked at the tape and saw the hits that we put on the quarterback, that was very, very encouraging because over time, generally, that makes a big difference. You’d like to get sacks but you definitely want to get some hits on the quarterback and we got a number of good hits on the quarterback.”

The main critique many had of the Vikings rotation plan was that the starters – namely Allen and Williams – would be off the field too frequently. But on Sunday it appears Vikings coaches found a good mix, as Allen was on the field for 75 snaps and Williams logged 64.

“I thought it was good for us and it’s something we have to continue to grow and develop and make sure the guys we do put in for our starters are really living up to the things that we expect,” Frazier explained. “But it was a good start for us, to be able to get that rotation going in a fashion we think will help us over the long haul.”


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