In advance of Monday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Indianapolis Colts have already ruled two players out for the game: inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman and offensive lineman Joe Reitz.
Reitz being out is no surprise whatsoever, as he's still recovering from a high ankle sprain, and on top of that he's a backup (though a good backup, he's still a backup). Jerrell Freeman, on the other hand, is the team's starting inside linebacker and a core part of their front seven. This will be the first game that Freeman has ever missed in the NFL, ending a streak of 33 consecutive starts (which, especially for an inside linebacker, is pretty impressive). Freeman has been the Colts' leading tackler in each of the past two seasons, racking up 145 in 2012 and then 126 a year ago. He had a great all around year last year, not only notching a team-high 126 tackles but also finishing second on the team with 5.5 sacks and recording 6 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. In other words, he's been a huge contributor to this defense, one of their best players, and one of their most consistent players.
On Monday night, he's out against the Eagles. The opponent the Colts are playing makes it even tougher that Freeman is out, as the Eagles love to run the ball and they play their offense so that the linebackers need to make plays. The Colts 3-4 defense is geared that way, too, and the Colts will really miss Freeman's versatility and ability.
Oh, and get this: last year, the Colts recorded 42 total sacks. Of those sacks, only 13 of them were recorded by guys who are still going to be playing this Monday night. The Colts will be without Robert Mathis (19.5 sacks a year ago) and Jerrell Freeman (5.5 sacks a year ago), the two leading players on the team in that category. If you look at the eleven players who will be starting on defense for the Colts on Monday night, they combined for just 15.5 sacks last year. Every starter on this defense combined for 4 less sacks than Robert Mathis got by himself last year. If you wonder why we're concerned about the Colts' pass rush, this is just another illustration of why that is. Now with Freeman out, it could be even worse.
On the positive side, however, the Colts do have capable guys behind Freeman to fill in. Josh McNary will get the start, and the Colts really like him - and for good reason. He's been very impressive in the past year and a game from what we've seen, but the problem with him is that he's been injured too much to get on the field consistently. He's healthy now, however, and I think he'll be able to hold his own out there. Also, Henoc Muamba is an athletic linebacker and a good player and he is there too if the Colts need him to take some snaps.
The Colts will miss Jerrell Freeman a lot on Monday night, and while they have capable guys to fill in, they're not going to replace what Freeman brings to the table. Him being ruled out is a big loss for the Colts against the Eagles.