If NFL fans don’t know who Jerrell Freeman is, they should. The Indianapolis Colts’ young ILB has quietly been one of the defense’s best young players in his 1st 3 seasons with the team. Though unheralded, signing with the Indianapolis Colts after a 3-year stint with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, Freeman has been highly productive anchoring the center of the Colts’ defense.
Dec 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) has been one of the anchors of the Colts’ defense throughout his 1st 3 NFL seasons with the team. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Of course, that might be just how Jerrell Freeman prefers it, under the radar. The 6’0″, 240 lb, Inside Linebacker went to small-school Mary Hardin-Baylor (TX), where he earned both DIII All-American and Defensive Player of the Year Honors, finishing as the school’s all-time leading tackler.
Though he went undrafted in the 2008 NFL Draft, Freeman quickly signed with the Tennessee Titans for training camp of that upcoming season. Although he ended up being released just prior to the start of the 2008 season, he was the 1st Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusader to be offered an NFL contract before his release. Think the Tennessee Titans may regret that decision now, seeing as he plays for their dominant AFC South division rival?
Still, things tend to always work out for the best if you keep the faith and continue to work hard. For Colts’ fans, they wouldn’t have it any other way. Their hidden gem may be one of the league’s best kept secrets. Freeman led the Colts in tackles during his 1st two seasons in the NFL at ILB, averaging 91.5 tackles per season (2012-13). Though he’s missed 3 games this season with a sore hamstring, he once again is having another productive season for the Colts at ILB.
Perhaps, Freeman’s greatest asset to the Colts’ defense though is his exceptional ability in coverage. In today’s NFL, where superfreaks tight ends like Julis Thomas, Rob Gronkowski, and Jimmy Graham roam wild-being both big and fast with soft hands, linebackers like Freeman are a rare breed. The unique type of linebacker that can both run and cover against those potential “matchup nightmares” over the middle.
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It’s a testament to Freeman’s special ability in coverage that he’s currently ProFootballFocus’s (PFF’s) 7th best ILB in coverage overall with a +3.5 rating. To put that in perspective, that’s 1 spot ahead of San Francisco 49ers All-Pro ILB Patrick Willis, who ranks 8th at +2.5.
Digging even further, opposing quarterbacks have a 97.3 opposing quarterback rating when targeting Freeman. While that may seem like a fairly high number, it’s actually not all things considered. His allowed QB Rating of 97.3 is actually 23rd overall among all 34 qualifying starting ILB’s (50%+ of each’s ILB’s respective defense’s snaps).
It just goes to show you just how much today’s average ILB struggles in coverage against the aforementioned “new NFL tight end prototype”. Fortunately for Freeman, he doesn’t have that problem, as he continues to shine once again in that area.
“He’s currently ProFootballFocus‘s (PFF’s) 7th best ILB in coverage overall with a +3.5 rating. To put that in perspective, that’s 1 spot ahead of San Francisco 49ers All-Pro ILB Patrick Willis, who ranks 8th at +2.5.”
With a base salary of a meager $570K in the last year of his contract, Freeman is due for a long-term deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Quite frankly, he’s earned it. At a still young age of 28 years old, he reasonably has quite a few productive years of ILB left in him.
If Colts’ fans have their way, they’ll all be with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts’ linebacker will hopefully be a staple of the Colts’ defense for years to come, as he’s been a stand-up player both on and off the field. The type of talented player that you build your defense around, as he’s simply a force in the middle. Did we mention how good he is in coverage?
Sep 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas (80) fumbles after being tackled by Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Colts 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports