Freeney to see increase in play with Clayborn sidelined

Khadrice Rollins

krollins@ajc.com

With defensive end Adrian Clayborn out following surgery for a knee injury suffered against the Arizona Cardinals, the Atlanta Falcons will look for 15-year veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney to take on a bigger role with the defense.

“We usually play him somewhere in the 20 to mid-30 (snap range), and we’ll ramp that up a bit, and then we’ll just take it game-by-game from there,” coach Dan Quinn said. “The fact we’ve limited him some up until now, he’s feeling fresh and ready to go at this stage of the season.”

So far this season, Freeney has played in 10 games for Atlanta (7-4), only missing the Thursday Nov. 3 contest against Tampa Bay (6-5). In addition to monitoring his snap count, the Falcons have also limited Freeney in practice, a strategy that has paid off. He is third on the team in sacks with three, trailing only Clayborn (4.5) and linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. (9.5).

Beasley said Freeney’s leadership is a reason the Falcons’ pass rush has improved so much this season, going from 19 sacks in all of 2015 to 24 sacks through 11 games this year. He added that because of his experience, Freeney will be prepared to step up with Clayborn out.