FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Even though Dan Quinn said he hadn’t fully decided, he laid a lot of speculation to rest Sunday when he told the media new Falcons addition Dwight Freeney probably wouldn’t see the field Thursday in the Georgia Dome when Atlanta hosts the Washington Redskins for the first preseason game on the 2016 docket.
“It’d be unlikely unless [he’s] really further along than I thought, said the Falcons’ head coach.”
Freeney’s action will come, that’s an absolute certainty. The Falcons will depend on him as the team’s nickel pass-rusher to bolster a unit that finished last in the NFL at attacking opposing quarterbacks. But how much will he play?
Dropped into action with Arizona last season, Freeney played 256 snaps in 11 regular season games. He also notched eight sacks over that span. At 36 years old, he’s not worried about how much gas is left in his tank.
“There is a lot that I would like to bring,” Freeney said. “Obviously, make some plays here on the field. I think I still have a lot left to give from an on the field perspective also some leadership for a guy who’s been around for 14 now going on 15 years. ”
How much help Freeney can provide will go a long way toward determining the total effect of the Falcons bringing him to Atlanta. More snaps means more production, at least that’s the notion we’ll work with.
Looking back on Freeney’s 2015 season, here’s how his weekly snap count played out:
- Week 6 — 20 snaps
- Week 7 — 26 snaps
- Week 8 — 25 snaps
- Week 9 — Bye
- Week 10 — 20 snaps
- Week 11 — 22 snaps
- Week 12 — 27 snaps
- Week 13 — 25 snaps
- Week 14 — 22 snaps
- Week 15 — 20 snaps
- Week 16 — 28 snaps
- Week 17 — 21 snaps
- Playoff 1 — 33 snaps
- Playoff 2 — 20 snaps
Notice that Freeney never played fewer than 20 snaps (four times) in a game and sometimes ventured into the upper 20s or lower 30s. Add his two playoff games and Freeney logged 309 snaps in 13 2016 games.
Let’s use some math (scary, but let’s…) and predict Freeney’s snap count with the Falcons in 2016. I’m going to assume he’ll play in all 16 games this season.
If Freeney played 309 snaps in 13 games, at that same per-game rate he should play 380 snaps for Atlanta in 16 games. That boils down to just fewer (23.75) than 24 snaps per game.
Freeney didn’t help solve the issue Thursday when he arrived in Flowery Branch.
“I’m one of those guys you’re going to have to pull me off the field. … So if it’s 18 snaps, then it’s 18 snaps. If it’s 30 snaps, it’s 30 snaps. If it’s 45, 50, they’re going to have to get me an IV, but I’ll still go out there and then still play,” Freeney said.
My original guess was 15 snaps per game, but after our little math project here I’m increasing my prediction. Freeney could play somewhere between 20-30 snaps per game and land near the 400 mark for the season.
That said… how many sacks do you think Freeney will get?