On Sunday, Colts inside linebacker Pat Angerer failed to log a single tackle. In fact, his name is completely absent from the NFL's official stat sheet for the game. He was on the field for 18 of a possible 60 defensive plays. No tackles.
No assisted tackles. No pass defended. No sacks. No hurries. Nothing.
What the hell has happened to Pat Angerer, the one-time leading tackler for the Colts?
Since his return from a broken foot that cost him all of the 2012 preseason and six games of the 2012 regular season, Pat Angerer has been pretty craptastic on the field of play. He had a pretty nice game against the Browns in Week Seven, which was his first game back from injury. However, since returning, he has 10 combined tackles (7 solo, 3 assisted) with one pass defended in six games. That's is, essentially, one tackle per game.
That's terrible, even by Gilbert Gardner standards.
Meanwhile, the guy who saw his playing time cut dramatically since Angerer returned - third year inside backer Kavell Conner - saw only 17 plays this past Sunday. Before Week Seven, Conner was on the field for an average of 40 snaps a game with good production. Since then, he's been at or around 18 snaps a game. Despite only playing 17 snaps on Sunday against the Bills, he logged three combined tackles, including one tackle for a loss. Those numbers aren't earth-shattering, but at least it's something.
Jerrell Freeman, the man who effectively replaced Angerer as the team's stout inside tackler, saw 58 plays on defense, or roughly 97% of the defensive stats. He also had 16 combined tackles, a sack, three tackles for a loss, and a QB hit. Moise Fokou, the fourth inside linebacker on the team, saw 24 snaps and had two tackles and one pass defended. He also had a special teams tackle.
Speaking of special teams, Jerrell Freeman logged 5 plays in that area on Sunday. Keep in mind, this guy hardly ever leaves the field on defense! Kavell Conner logged 11 special teams snaps while Fokou had 15.
Angerer? In all six games he's played, he has played on special teams just three times. On Sunday, Angerer never played on special teams.
After seeing all this, why the hell is Pat Angerer on this football team? Someone explain this to me, please. If he's not going to produce much of anything when he is on the field, and if he isn't going to play on special teams, what the hell purpose does he serve?
Glorified cheerleader? Token Big Ten player?
Wouldn't it make more sense now to simply bench Angerer and play Conner and Fokou more on defense? Shouldn't a player with Angerer's speed and tackling ability get utilized on special teams?
When Angerer's return was imminent six weeks ago, interim head coach Bruce Arians was clear that, even though Jerrell Freeman and Kavell Conner were playing quite well together as the inside linebacker duo in Indy's hybrid 3-4 scheme, Angerer would see increased playing time. Arians even made it a point to say the decision had nothing to do with Conner's performance, but that the coaches wanted to get Angerer back on the same field with Freeman.
The result: 10 combined tackles, 6 games.
Prior to Angerer's return, Conner was on track to have a 60 tackle, 30 assisted tackle season (90 combined). He already has 3 passes defended and a sack. With Angerer now back and leaching snaps from Conner (who is clearly the more productive of the two today), Conner is on track for half that projected tackle number.
Yeah, if I'm Conner, I'm a tad pissed.
Conner is in year three of a four year deal. If he had earned 90 combined tackles, 5 or 6 passes defended, and a couple of sacks in 2012, that would be something he could use to leverage a nice contract from either the Colts or another team after the 2013 season, provided he stay healthy. Now, not so much.
Back to Angerer, in October we wrote about how it didn't seem to make much sense to keep Angerer on the roster, and that perhaps the Colts should have been traded before the deadline. Freeman has clearly taken what was once Angerer's primary job (a.k.a., tackle machine), and it's pretty unlikely that Freeman gets that job is not for Angerer's training camp injury.
We also wrote that it would be interesting to see how the Colts defense was affected by Angerer's return. Well, in the games he's played, the defense has given up an average of 18 points-per-game. That might be a mirage, though. As Matt Grecco noted last week, the Colts have descended into the worst adjusted defense in football. They might be the epitome of "bend-but-don't-break," which was NOT what this new defense was supposed to bring to Indy, even in year one.
Regardless of where the defense is ranked, it is pointless to have Angerer on the field if he is literally going to provide nothing, as he did on Sunday. If the foot injury he sustained in training camp is still bothering him, then he probably shouldn't be playing, period.
I mean, it's not like they're going to miss his production if he's out.
The Pro Bowl sucks.
We know it. The league knows it. Everyone knows it.
However, the one group that doesn't necessarily think that the NFL's sorry excuse for an All Star exhibition sucks is the NFLPA. The reason for this is players who get Pro Bowl nods use those nods to leverage teams for more money. This, of course, makes sense. If a guy has a good year and is recognized for it with a Pro Bowl invite, then he should get compensated for that.
Pay for performance, sans the bounties.
So, based on this alone, Colts first year linebacker Jerrell Freeman absolutely should get a Pro Bowl nod this season. We're not talking as an alternate. He should be a starter!
Outside of Patriots inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, Freeman's numbers are the best in the AFC. In fact, in many ways, his numbers compare to Mayo's.
Mayo: 112 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 3 forced fumbles
Freeman: 101 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT (for a touchdown), 1 forced fumble
No other inside linebacker in the AFC comes close to the production these two studs are providing for their respective teams. The closest is Derrick Johnson of the Chiefs, and while I have nothing against Johnson personally, it should be a standing rule that NO Chiefs get Pro Bowl nods in 2012.
Freeman is a first-year player (26 years old) who played his college ball at Division III Mary Hardin-Baylor. He played in the CFL with the Saskatchewan Roughriders from 2009-2011. Last season was a breakout year for him in the CFL in which he led their league in tackles (105). Now, in the NFL, he's the NFL's fourth leading tackler.
When you consider how little the Colts invested in their defense during the 2012 NFL Draft, finding a player like Freeman was critical if Indy was going to field anything close to a competent defense. Much to the credit of Ryan Grigson and the Colts front office, they did.