As news seeps out about the health of Dwight Freeney and the extent of his injury—is it a sprained ankle or a torn ligament?—Colts fans might start to feel a sense of unease creep over them. After all, with Freeney out for the 2008 playoff game against the Chargers, the Colts' inability to generate a pass rush cost them the game.
As we approach Super Bowl Sunday, we’re facing the possibility that Dwight Freeney may not be available for the only NFL game that matters all season. As usual with the Colts’ organization, the truth about a player’s injury is harder to find than Jimmy Hoffa.
Are we to believe the ESPN report that states Freeney has a torn ligament, or the Colts' version that says it’s a sprained ankle? Given the Colts' history of being, shall we say, less then forthright about players' injuries, and assume that the ESPN report is true, well, now what are the Colts going to do?
After that playoff loss in 2008, Bill Polian stated that the Colts needed to be able to generate a pass rush when the front four can’t do it. That is one of the main reasons Larry Coyer was hired by the Colts.
Don’t forget what Coyer did with the Denver Broncos. From 2003-2004, the Broncos’ defense was ranked fourth in the league, in 2005 they were third in the league for points allowed, and this year Indy's defense is tied for second in the league with 16.8 points per game, and took their play to a whole new level for the playoffs.
If you look at Coyer’s defensive philosophy, it’s based on two things: speed and aggressiveness.
Coyer is just as comfortable running the Tampa-2 as he is running man-zone blitzes, zone blitzes, and the zone-dog blitz scheme.
The zone-dog blitz scheme is when you drop one of the defensive ends into coverage while either one or a combination of two linebackers blitz. Any of the linebackers can blitz, and there are even variations where one of the defensive tackles drops into coverage, instead of the defensive end.
The defensive backs drop into coverage, while the linebackers and the defensive end play hook zones to cover the underneath routes. The great thing about this blitz is that it confuses the offensive line in their blocking assignments, and it is still safe against giving up the big play because the rest of the defenders are playing zone coverage.
It’s a high-reward, low-risk blitz scheme.
If Freeney can’t play on Sunday, then the Colts will bring the heat on Brees more times than they would normally. The Colts’ defense is fast at every position. One way or another, Larry Coyer is going to make sure that Drew Brees is uncomfortable in the pocket all day long, with or without Dwight Freeney.
Gone are the days of the "bend but don’t break" philosophy, where the play of the defense depended on a few key players.
With Larry Coyer at the helm, and all the speed and talent on defense, Colts fans shouldn’t be too worried about the injury to Freeney.
If Freeney really does have severe ligament damage, then this is Larry Coyers, and the defenses moment to shine, and show us what they can do.