We're just 15 days away from the Indianapolis Colts reporting to training camp, and with the 2015 season approaching fast, we are counting down the 15 most important players to the Colts' success this year. Today, we are kicking off the list by looking at inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who checks in at number 15.
A three-year starter since the Colts signed him out of the CFL in 2012, Freeman has started 44 games and has racked up 366 tackles, nine sacks, eight forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 14 passes defensed, and three interceptions (one of which he returned for a touchdown). In both 2012 and 2013 he led the team in tackles, while in 2014 he finished second (despite missing four games due to injury).
In 2014, however, it was a rough year for Freeman. He did a very good job in pass defense, but he really struggled in run defense, and it was something that the New England Patriots absolutely took advantage of in their two dominating victories over the Colts. While he has never been the best inside linebacker, 2014 was clearly a down year for him, particularly when it came to run defense. And with the Colts looking to improve at that very area, getting Freeman to return to the form he was at in 2012 and 2013 would be a very nice boost.
That's why he appears on this list. He's not higher because D'Qwell Jackson is starting alongside him and did a pretty good job last year against the run, while Nate Irving, who was signed this offseason, is particularly good against the run. But the Colts absolutely need Freeman to return to form in the run game while keeping up his great pass defense, and if that happens, it should be a big help to the team's run defense and would mean a good, consistent player in the middle of the defense. In the 3-4 system the inside linebackers are asked to make a lot of the plays, and if Freeman can do that in 2015, it would go a long way toward helping the entire defense as a whole.
Past rankings on this list: 5th (2014), 7th (2013)