Falcons to unleash Freeney against Browns

Defensive end Dwight Freeney is set to make his Falcons’ debut when they face the Cleveland Browns at 8 p.m. Thursday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Falcons signed Freeney on August 2 and have allowed the veteran, who’s heading into his 14th NFL season, to work himself into football shape. He did not play in the opening exhibition game against Washington last Thursday.

“Yeah, I’m excited to get back out there,” Freeney said after practice on Tuesday.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn will play Freeney on third downs in the team’s nickel defense. He doesn’t have a number of snaps he’d like to see Freeney play, but will limited to first-quarter action.

“It’s not going to be a lot, but it will be enough to get where I feel comfortable with him in the groove, him playing, him feeling good in the technique,” Quinn said. “Once he starts to feel that way, that’s when I’ll pull him. It’s somewhere in a quarter. It’s his first game so it won’t be a lot, but it will be enough to get him going.”

That’s just fine with Freeney, who had eight sacks over 255 snaps last season for Arizona.

“I think that’s all part of it,” Freeney said. “Finding your legs and getting your feet under you. Knocking off the rust. Getting your timing back. I think that’s the benefit of training camp.”

Freeney, 36, has been one of the NFL’s preeminent pass rushers since being selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the 11th overall pick of the 2002 draft out of Syracuse.

He played 11 seasons with the Colts and helped them win Super XLI. He played two seasons with San Diego, before playing with the Cardinals last season. He has 119.5 career sacks and hopes to add some teeth to the Falcons’ anemic pass rush.

Freeney is looking forward to playing in a limited role.

“Whenever I can knock off some rust in practice and get that timing together with my teammates and some of the things that we do, together,” Freeney said. “It will be good.”

Freeney believes he’s had enough practice to essentially be the designated pass rusher.

“It’s been good,” Freeney said. “Coach does a great job of making sure that he doesn’t kill guys, but you still get your work in. That’s important and I think he realizes that. I’ve embraced that because I’ve been around long enough to understand that you do need some work.”

The Falcons are hoping that Freeney is able to show second-year linebacker/defensive end Vic Beasley some pass-rushing tricks of the trade.

“I think Vic is a tremendous talent,” Freeney said. “He has a lot to learn. The upside is absolutely amazing for him. I’m going to try to help him out as much as I can.

“I’m going to navigate him through all of the troubled waters and all of the things that he’s going to run into that he hasn’t experienced yet. I’ll try to catch him up to speed as much as possible.”

Freeney is aware that Beasley has studied film of his play and said that makes him feel ‘old.”

But film study is part of the game.

“I can’t watch Reggie White,” Freeney said. “There is no way that I’m hump (moving) anybody or flipping somebody over. But I might watch a guy like Derrick Thomas or Lawrence Taylor.”