The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

Sports

September 10, 2012

George Bremer: Colts in rush to improve

Colts fans spent much of the offseason wondering how Dwight Freeney would fit into the new hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme.

Just one game into the regular season, many now are wondering how the defense can play without him.

Freeney left Sunday’s 41-21 loss to the Chicago Bears late in the first quarter.

With him the “rush” linebacker on the field, the Colts got persistent pressure on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and harassed him into a 1-for-10 start.

After Freeney went to the sideline with a left ankle sprain, Cutler completed 20 of his final 25 passes and finished with 333 yards and two touchdowns.

“His presence does a lot to the offense,” inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman said Monday at the team’s practice facility. “It stresses it a little bit. It’s one of those things where a guy has to step up. Just like in my case, a guy had to step up into a position to do what they can do to help the team out.”

Freeman replaced injured Pat Angerer — who is expected to be out two more weeks — and finished with five tackles and one interception return for a touchdown in the first start of his NFL career.

The Colts would love to get at least a portion of that production from a group that includes Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison and Justin Hickman if Freeney can’t go in Sunday’s home opener against the Minnesota Vikings.

Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said Freeney was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday afternoon and the team would have more information on his status later in the week.

“I hear Dwight is a fast healer,” Pagano said. “He’s got all kind of medical people that he surrounds himself with, and between hyperbaric chambers and all that kind of thing, I anticipate getting him back sooner rather than later.”

If Freeney can’t go against the Vikings, it’s unclear who might take his place.

Addison is listed as Freeney’s backup on the roster, but there’s little doubt Hughes — and perhaps even Hickman — will be in the mix.

“I’m taking that approach that everybody is doing out here, just taking it as if you were the starter,” Hughes said. “That means coming up, watching film, working out and working hard at practice.”

Robert Mathis’ five tackles and two sacks comprised the total production for the players listed as outside linebackers on the roster against the Bears.

The first goal of Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s scheme is to stop the run, but rushing the passer is a close second.

Indianapolis will need to get more consistent pressure on Minnesota’s Christian Ponder than it did against Cutler if it hopes to avoid an 0-2 start.

Sunday’s fast start suggests that task will be easier if Freeney is back on the job.

 

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