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San Diego Chargers Most Valuable Players: #7 Dwight Freeney

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Dwight Freeney isn’t getting any younger, but he is the only established edge rusher that the San Diego Chargers have.

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When determining a player's value, the simplest way to do so is to ask: "How much would it hurt the team if the player was lost for the season?" So, that is how this list is compiled. Each player is valuable for different reasons, and here is why Dwight Freeney is the ninth most valuable player on the San Diego Chargers roster this season:

Pass Rush

NFL rosters are constructed based on value. What can a player do? How important is what they can do? How many other guys can do what they do? When it comes to Dwight Freeney, what he does is bring the heat. It may seem crazy to have a 34 year-old who spent most of last season on IR as such a valuable player, but before suffering a torn quad he showed what he can still do.

On the opening night of the season, Freeney had Texans’ Tackle Duane Brown on roller skates. He notched a sack, 2 hits, and 6 hurries according to PFF. In fact, the future Hall of Famer totaled 19 total QB disruptions on only 115 pass rushes. Thomas Keiser, who led San Diego’s outside linebackers in pass rush attempts with 246, totaled 20 QB disruptions.

Overall Value

With the shift of NFL offenses to pass-heavy attacks, pass rush is arguably the most important part of a defense. Thomas Keiser leading the linebackers in pass rushes should tell you all you need to know about the state of the team’s edge rushers. Sure, Melvin Ingram will be back and healthier. Second round pick Jeremiah Attaochu will also provide depth and will likely be a pass rush specialist as a rookie. However, Freeney is the only Charger who has proven that he can consistently put pressure on the quarterback, even as he approaches his mid-30’s.

The Chargers will likely limit Freeney’s snaps to keep him healthy and fresh in 2014, but that does not affect his value. He is the only proven difference maker in the linebacker corps, and with the team making vast improvements in the secondary, it would be wise to keep him as strong as possible for when they really need him.

Freeney also adds value to the team as a mentor. Fellow linebacker Melvin Ingram came into the league about the same size as Freeney and could definitely stand to learn a few techniques or tricks to get his career going. Also, Jeremiah Attaochu will greatly benefit from a seasoned veteran. He comes into the league with all the ability to become a dominant pass rusher, but is quite raw. If he can help his development,  Dwight Freeney will be the gift that keeps on giving.