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April 14, 2002

Undersized Freeney could be steal in draft


When next weekend's NFL Draft unfolds, Dwight Freeney will sit at home and wait, watching other players get picked and wondering how long teams will remain rigid about prototypes and insist on ignoring production.

The problem? Freeney is a defensive end.

And the book on DEs says they have to be big guys — 6-foot-4, maybe 6-foot-5. That's why the scouts are in love with Julius Peppers of North Carolina, who stands 6-6 and weighs 283 pounds; Kalimba Edwards of South Carolina, who is 6-5 and 265; and Charles Grant of Georgia, who is 6-3 and 278.

Now along comes Freeney, a relative pipsqueak at 6-1 and 263. Compared with others at the position, he looks like a runt.

Then he starts playing.

Freeney set the NCAA record with 17½ sacks last season. He forced 11 fumbles and recovered three, another NCAA record. In his last 20 games at Syracuse, he had 31½ sacks. There were streaks of 14 games in which he had one sack and seven games in which he had two.

Last year's No.1 pick, quarterback Michael Vick, knows all about Freeney. When Syracuse played at Virginia Tech in 2000, Freeney set a school record, decking Vick 4½ times for losses of 41 yards. Nobody treated Vick that badly in his first season in the NFL.

Freeney finished his career at Syracuse with 34 sacks, second in school history only to Tim Green's 45½, and 104 tackles, 68 of them solos. He was a finalist for the Lombardi Award for the nation's best lineman and the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy for the best defensive player.

In predraft workouts, Freeney was clocked in 4.38 seconds for 40 yards, astounding speed for a defensive end. Yet he is projected perhaps no higher than a late first-round pick, expected instead to stick around for a while when the teams start carving up the prospects.

So what's the problem?

It's all a matter of his size. Even on his tiptoes, Freeney just doesn't fit the traditional DE mold. Teams know what a DE is supposed to look like and rarely deviate from that recipe.

"The NFL is about imitation, not innovation," said Gary Wichard, Freeney's agent.

Freeney has heard the complaint about size so much that he just laughs it off.

"I never had a problem with my size," he said. "I'm a little shorter, but I get off the ball real quick. I think my size is an advantage for me. I use my speed. I go after the ball. I learned to play that way. I play the angles a little differently. You don't see big guys knock down passes. I do."

Then he added an exclamation point.

"I can play!"

Freeney visited the Bears, Giants, Jets, Ravens and Bills last week, five teams in five days, each of them probably equipped with a tape measure or yardstick.

John Butler, general manager of the San Diego Chargers, knows all about the young man's sacks record and his impressive workout numbers.

"I look at production first, and he was amazingly productive," Butler said. "It's simply the size factor. He'd probably be very high in the first round if it weren't for that."

Super scout Gil Brandt likes Freeney a lot. He'd like him even better if he were a little bit bigger.

"He's a heck of a player," Brandt said. "You don't have 17 sacks if you're not a good player. Anytime you have a player with a burst of speed like he does, he's going to play some place."

Just general stuff,but 265lbs running a 4.38 is sick!

I would love to have Gurode @ #18(i like that he can play center,I`am not sold on Moore)

Freeney in the 2nd.

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He may not be there when we pick in the 2nd. The article says he could potentially go in the late first, so even if he drops to the early or mid-2nd we could still miss him.

4 1/2 sacks in one game is awesome by itself, but...

4 1/2 sacks in one game, on a QB like Michael Vick is phenomenal !! And that was when he was just a junior.

But at 6-1, 263 lbs, and running a 4.38, there has to be teams out there looking at making an LB out of him. Hell, maybe we could "trim him down" to 'safety size' and make a FS out of him. And watch his 40 time improve even more with the weight reduction !! Just a thought

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unfortunately the Skins are already awash with undersized defensive linemen. this guy would be perfect if we had a line like the Bears with a lot of 300+ guys who could stop the run. Freeney could be a real terror coming in on passing downs and playing a 'rover' position in the nickel defense.

even though after 2002 we will be about 75% of the way through digesting the contracts we signed guys like Deion, Carrier, George and Bruce to in 2000, we are still paying for them in the sense that THIS year we have limited options in replacing our DL.

Smith and/or Coleman is going to be on the roster because of money issues and not necessarily playing ability anymore.

And that is preventing the team from moving forward.

Hopefully with the Wynn signing and the pickup of a solid prospect in the draft we can make do with a rotation and count on that and our linebackers and corners to ratchet up the performance of the D.

At a minimum we need the geezers to stay healthy this time around. :)

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Short DE's are undesirable. If a lineman gets his hands on a DE, it's over; the DE's not going anywhere.

And against McKinney (6'8"), Freeney was completely neutralized...In the NFL, all left tackles are tall and have long arms.

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Originally posted by VoR

And against McKinney (6'8"), Freeney was completely neutralized...In the NFL, all left tackles are tall and have long arms.

Not all NFL Tackles are 6'9 like McKinnie is. McKinnie is large even by MFL standards. Secondly, McKinnie has NEVER allowed a sack in his entire career (college, junior college, and high school). So, getting neutralized by McKinnie is not a mark of doomed failure

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I think Freeney would be a great pickup, and no, this is not my Syracuse bias showing through. :) Bruce will not be around after this year, and with the addition of Wynn, we have an every down guy. Freeney could come in for obvious passing situations as an edge rusher, and an excellent one at that.

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I think Freeney will make a pretty good pro, but, like bulldog, I don't see him as a good fit with us. And I can't see the 3-4 as much of an option wight now as Wynn is probably the only lineman on our roster capable of playing line on the 3-4. Smith and Coleman are too old to handle the beating 3-4 ends take and Wilkinson is not the ideal nose tackle.

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I wonder if Freeney can play LB.

I know that people say that he could be a great 3-4 ROLB, but that's cos they are looking at the sack potential.

But does he have the other linebacker skills - shedding blocks, moving laterally along the line, coverage, etc.

And if he does figure to be a linebacker in the nFL, why does nobody consider him for MLB in a 4-3 ?

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I don't think Freeney did very well in the agility tests scouts run for linebackers. He has no sense of pass coverage. He may be fast, but you have to have a certain innate awareness in pass coverage, and some guys just don't have it.

Freeney is a lineman. He has a lineman's mentality. His size could be a problem, but I think it's often overrated. Defensive ends who are too short and too light make the Pro Bowl all the time. John Abraham is only 254lbs. Tony Brackens is only 265lbs. Jevon Kearse is only 265lbs. Simeon Rice is only 268lbs. Jason Taylor is only 260lbs. Michael McCrary is 260lbs. Now that's a solid lineup of Pro Bowlers. You don't think any of those guys could help? Of course, Freeney is short, too. But then you have to look at a guy like Hugh Douglas, who's only 6'2". And he may be listed at 280lbs now, but he was in the 250lbs range when he was drafted by the Jets. They said Douglas didn't have the frame to grow bigger back then, too.

The key is possessing some unusual qualities that make up for certain physical limitations. In Freeney's case, it is unusual speed and movement skills.

Sometimes you have to adjust your scheme for guys like this who are simply too disruptive to not play. There's plenty of things you can do without selling out to a 3-4 scheme, too. Richie Pettitbon found ways to let Dexter Manley be an impact, every down player. Can't you do the same for Freeney? While his pass rushing prowess is obvious, can't you see ways for a guy like that to be disruptive against the run? Especially shooting gaps and chasing plays from the backside? You just don't want him playing directly over the offensive tackle and having to anchor a whole lot.

Now, I'm not completely sold on Freeney. His performance against Miami and McKinney has to be closely looked at because he is going to face tackles like that all the time in the NFL. But you have to look at a guy like Freeney and wonder about all the big plays he could make for your defense. After all, all the guy did was produce and make big plays throughout his college career. That might be more important than any tape measurements or stopwatch times.

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There's one good way to evaluate Freeney.

Mckinnie neutralized him. If you're the skins and you are considering looking at him, get him to work out with Samuels. A little one on one.......... If Samuels mauls him, forget it. If he makes Samuels break a sweat, maybe he's someone to look at.

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I'm one who thinks that the team that get's Freeney is going to get a very good player. I for one, could see a team like the Steelers picking up a guy like him. He'd flourish there. They always have great pick ups. Example, Kendred Bell. He was productive. I"ve noticed the the Bills and Steelers are interested in Freeney. Remember Donahoe used to be the GM with the Steelers. And, I'm not surprised by the Steelers interest nor the Bears. Remember Urlacher. You have to look at Freeney in your scheme. He's a player. And a stud with the right players around him. Plus, he can rush the passer.

I for one never get caught up in size. I'm more interestested in intangibles. Desire. Heart. That's also why I like Harrington. If size is important then most people would overlook Zach Thomas, Sam Mills, Joe Morris, Dexter Coaxley, even Hugh Douglas. All all pro performers in their careers. Geez, you could even put Juan Dixon in that category. People were saying that about Dat Nyguen of Dallas. He just got signed!

I think Freeney would be a great fit for the Skins. For instance, if we land Trotter -- which I think we will. (Which will be like adding another first rounder). You add the high motors and speed of Arrington, Trotter, Armstead, and Freeney -- and our corners, the compounding intenesity could be off the chain. Our defense could be disruptive. Not just good, but disruptive. Freeney's 4.35 or so in the 40 is crazy!!!!! Plus he is strong as hell!

Sure McKinnie shut him down in their game. Plus, Syracuse got killed in that game. It was over in the first half. Look, Samuels shut down Douglas -- that doesn't mean Douglas is not good. Both made the Pro Bowl. That's great for McKinnie. Plus, if you're surrounded by top notch talent -- and he would be with us, it would only make him better in our scheme and that much more difficult to contend with. You would just have another person to account for with speed. (Think Rams you all). That's what the Great Bears defense in the 80's did.

Plus, our offense is going to go through a learning curve early in the year. However, Spurrier and crew will get it together. Actually their learning curve will probably be better then what our regular offense produced last year! That's why our defense is going to have to save us early.

I agree for the trade up for Harrington if possible. (I just love his attitude). If not, I hold pat and take Freeney. We then release Coleman June 1st and then try and sign a guy like Sam Adams. Our defense would be literally scary.

Those of you that want to take one of the Guards in round one are crazy. The toughest position to feel on any team are corners, left tackles and quarterbacks. You can get a guard later in the draft with good drafting. That's not true with top notch tackles. I actually feel the same with receivers. Plus, the top two guards are maulers and they don't really fit Spurrier. I've noticed the lineman we've been signing are athletic.

My take: Trade up for Harrington. Landing Harrington and Trotter on day one is wonderful! That's a win! A Pro Bowler and a potential Franchise Quarterback. Or, sit pretty trade down draft Freeney and Ramsey. Still get Trotter. Release Coleman and sign Sam Adams.


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