"Listen, when youâve been doing the same thing every single day, you get real good at it, but this is exciting, something fresh and new and possibilities are endless," Freeney said this week, according to Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star.
Freeney and Mathis have been really good at what they've been doing, and the beauty of Pagano's defense and play-calling is that he will take advantage of their skills. As Terrell Suggs showed with the Baltimore Ravens, Pagano's previous coaching stop, the hybrid defensive end/linebacker will have his hand in the dirt about 50 percent of the time, perhaps more depending on the situation.
The biggest challenges will be adjusting to playing out of a two-point stance and dropping into coverage, the latter of which both Freeney and Mathis have experience doing on zone blitzes.
It will interesting to see how the 32-year-old Freeney adjusts to the new role as he enters a pivotal season with his current contract set to expire. Will he respond like Mario Williams did last season with the Houston Texans, where he was on a sack-per-game pace until his season-ending pectoral injury? Or will he be like Aaron Kampman, who was a square peg trying to fit in a round hole with the 2009 Green Bay Packers?
We'll have the wait until September to find out for sure, but Pagano says Freeney is picking it up well.
"Now they have to go with calls and all of the different things, dropping into coverage a little bit," Pagano said. "But they have done a tremendous job and have picked it up very well."