TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals recorded three sacks in Monday night’s 26-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
One of them belonged to Dwight Freeney, a veteran who was appearing in his second game with the team since being singed less than two weeks ago. It was sack No. 1 as a Cardinal and No. 112.5 overall, and it came courtesy of his trademark spin move, which he used to beat Ravens tackle Eugene Monroe.
“It felt good to get a sack on the spin move, that always feels good, right,” he said after the game. “I got an opportunity to use it because he was over-setting me a little bit, he gave me that inside, so I got an opportunity.”
The Cardinals will take it.
Freeney was on the field for 26 snaps Monday, a total that comprises 41 percent of all of the team’s defensive plays. Though mostly used as a situational pass rusher, there were times where he dropped into coverage and played the kind of role an every-down linebacker would.
“It was great; it felt like I was back in 2008, 2005 when I used to do that stuff,” Freeney said. “I just love doing that, man. I’m a football player — not just a pass rush guy — and they realize that here and they’ve done a great job of just keeping everybody fresh.”
The 35-year-old compared it to a hockey team, and if that’s the analogy, then perhaps Freeney is meant to fill the role of enforcer. The seven-time Pro Bowler was signed in hopes of him bolstering the team’s anemic pass rush — Arizona has just 12 sacks through seven games — and if Monday was any indication, he may be able to do just that.
Because along with the sack, the veteran also racked up a handful of QB pressures. Might those eventually turn into sacks?
“Yes and no,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “He was fourth or fifth in the league in pressures a year ago. You need another compadre to hold him in the pocket for you, either coming up the middle or coming off the other side.
“As we build it, hopefully when we get Alex (Okafor) back and with Markus (Golden), Calais (Campbell) needs to show up a little bit more coming up the middle, and then Dwight will get those sacks.”
How many he will finish the season with is anyone’s guess, but as he gets more comfortable with the defense and more into the swing of playing football again his ability to get after the quarterback should continue to show up.
Freeney said Monday’s sack wasn’t necessary needed to prove to himself that he’s still got that spin move and ability to get to the quarterback, because he always believed that ability never left him.
“I know I’ve still got it, but it’s about how sharp it is,” he said. “Sometimes it’s slow, like a tropical storm, and this one was like a tornado. So I’ve got to get that thing humming. It was pretty good [Monday].
Sticking with the natural disaster analogy, Freeney, with a chuckle, said he would grade Monday’s sack as a Category 2 with winds up to 75 or 80 miles per hour.
If that picks up for him, there’s no telling what kind of damage he and the rest of Arizona’s defense will cause.
“I think the more that I’m out there, the more rhythm that I have, the timing gets there,” he said. “Sacks and those things come in bunches when they come, especially with the type of offense that we have and the type of coverage that we have, and especially the type of front four that we have.”
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