Former NFL head coach and ex-Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has coached pass-rushers 33 years of age or older, including Lawrence Taylor, John Abraham, Jason Taylor, and Osi Umenyiora.
So Nolan, now a television and radio analyst who is scheduled to be on ESPN next month, offered his take on the Falcons bringing in 36-year-old Dwight Freeney for a visit this week. Freeney, who had eight sacks in 11 games with Arizona last season, is scheduled to visit Atlanta on Wednesday. Coach Dan Quinn said he's well aware of Freeney's ability and won't conduct a workout with the veteran.
"Dwight Freeney is a one-dimensional guy; does not play the run -- ever -- and only pass-rushes," Nolan said. "His only move is his spin move, and it works. If he gets a young guy on him, he’s going to have two sacks in a game. He’s worth having. The thing is, if he’s their only pass-rusher, he’s just going to be so-so."
Nolan was the linebackers coach in San Diego the year after Freeney had four sacks in two seasons with the Chargers.
"Now it’s two years later and at that time, they thought he was done," Nolan said. "But look, they are in dire need in Atlanta. If they screw up again this year, there will probably be huge change. They’ve got to do whatever they’ve got to do. In my opinion, they shouldn’t care who they bring on, because they’ve got to save their asses. If that’s the case, then bring Freeney on.
"If this was the New England Patriots, they’re not going to bring (Freeney) in. This would be a desperation move for Atlanta, but they’re in a desperate situation."
The Falcons finished with a league-low 19 sacks last season. They did not truly address the pass rush in free agency or the draft, although they did sign veteran Derrick Shelby to provide a push up the middle. And the Falcons expect second-year player Vic Beasley Jr. to take another huge step as a pass-rusher even though they are moving him to Sam linebacker.
"I heard they moved Beasley to the drop linebacker? Well, I would rush him every down," Nolan said. "That’s why they drafted him. They at least accumulated a few players (around Beasley). We didn’t have crap. They don’t have to make up anything. They need to stick with what (Beasley) does best."