It's no surprise to any Colts fan when people say Dwight Freeney is the best pass rusher in football. Last October, when NFL Films' Steve Sabol interviewed former-Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden about the present day NFL, he asked him this question:
Sabol: If you were coaching today and you could take one defensive player for your team, who would it be.
Here was Gruden's answer:
Gruden: I'd probably take Dwight Freeney. He plays at full speed all the time. His effort is premiere in the league.
Freeney is the best pass rusher in football, period. I've said this pretty much since 2002, before
people made the erroneous mistake of giving me I started writing at a high tech blog that covers Colts football. But, it's one thing to say Freeney is the best and another to have others agree with you on it.
Enter Pro Football Focus.
While they do not come out and call Freeney the best, it's pretty clear based on their analysis that he offers more from the defensive end spot than players like Jared Allen.
When you consider this and how the Colts use Freeney (chiefly when they need him, not every down or when games are decided) it's fair to say that Freeney's numbers are slightly deflated compared to his production on the field in relation to his peers. Also detracting from his base stats is the league-wide respect and attention (in the form of blocking) he gets from offensive coordinators.
What is perhaps most impressive about Freeney is he doesn't discriminate against offensive tackles. While our Abraham and Allen studies showed a tendency to boost stats against lower opposition, Freeney had some of his biggest games against highly rated tackles like Ryan Clady (eight total pressures) and twice against Michael Roos (11 total pressures in two games).
We all remember former-Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden getting slapped around by Freeney in numerous regular season and playoff games. But, that wasn't because Ogden stunk or anything. Freeney does that to everyone. And unlike Jared Allen, who padded his sack stats by playing two games against the HORRID Green Bay Packers offensive line in 2009, Dwight Freeney brings it against the best of the best.
And, more often than not, he beats the best of the best.
All in all, it's hard not to be impressed with Freeney. He can get pressure inside and outside, he does it against the best tackles and he does it on third down. His '09 performance paints the picture of the prototypical pass rusher who, when healthy, causes offenses no end of trouble.
He takes advantage of the Colts' rotation policy to bring maximum effort and maximum efficiency very time he's on the field. Presuming he can remain healthy, there's nothing to suggest he won't be able to carry this on into 2010 and remain the most effective pass rusher in the NFL.
Freeney's overall PFF rating in 2009 was 35.7! Allen's was 23.8. Freeney was also rated better against the run over Allen.
Said it before, and I'll say it again: If Dwight Freeney had not gotten hurt in the AFCCG, the Colts would have won Super Bowl 44. PFF seems to agree:
When Dwight Freeney sprained his ankle it changed the dynamics of Super Bowl XLIV. Though Freeney was able to generate a decent amount of pressure on a heavily taped ankle (a sack and three pressures), Colts fans must wonder just how much damage he could have done if he was at 100 percent and able to play more than the 38 snaps he courageously managed.