Today, one of the best pass rushers of the last decade arrives in Atlanta, where he will be playing football for the Falcons. This is a very welcome development, even if we all wish we could put Dwight Freeney into a time machine and have him come out ten years younger.
One of the key questions is where and how much Freeney is going to play. The second half of that question is pretty easy to answer, with Freeney likely settling in at 25-35 snaps per game and rushing the passer on most of them, given that it’s the role he’s most comfortable in at this stage of his career.
The first part is a relatively easy answer, too—Freeney’s primarily going to play defensive end, with some snaps at linebacker along the way—but it involves larger questions about who is fading to the background with Freeney here.
If we assume Freeney will get some obvious passing down and nickel work and be a factor on third downs, he’s likely to steal snaps away from the likes of Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn, and occasionally Vic Beasley, during those times that Beasley is resting and off the field. He may also push someone like Courtney Upshaw off the roster entirely, given that the Falcons appear to have enough capable run defenders more or less locked into spots, and given that they need another stout run stopper like Upshaw far less than a pass rusher.
What’s your best guess?