7 Points: Freeney's on the Prowl Again

Has last year's foot surgery slowed Colts DE Dwight Freeney? Which two running backs had to work a bit harder for their yards last weekend? On third-and-long, who were the top targets? Scout.com's Ed Thompson has the answers to those questions and more in his 7 Points feature.

Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney showed everyone that he's fully recovered from his 2007 foot surgery. After Freeney landed on the injured reserve list last season with a Lisfranc injury, many people had to be wondering whether the Colts' star pass rusher would be able to regain his speed and mobility. Against the Bears last Sunday night, the 6-foot-1, 268-pound lineman registered his first sack of the season, and he was also credited with four quarterback knockdowns. 

You have to admire the work of running backs Earnest Graham of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ryan Grant of the Green Bay Packers during their season openers. Both athletes averaged 6.2 yards per carry after first contact by a defender. While nearly all the other running backs around the league averaged two to three yards after first contact, Graham rolled up 62 of his 91 yards after being hit while Grant posted 74 of his 92 yards after contact. By comparison, Falcons running back Michael Turner, who posted a league-best 220 yards last Sunday, finished third with 4.9 yards per carry after contact.

Kickers don't get enough recognition for consistently hitting kickoffs 70-plus yards. When a kicker boots a ball that deep, it means the returner is catching the ball in his end zone, forcing him to decide whether or not to bring the ball out at all. Last week, Carolina's Rhys Lloyd, who's NFL career had previously included just three games last season for the Ravens and the Panthers, boomed a league-best six kickoffs into the San Diego Chargers' end zone, including a league-best four for touchbacks. Green Bay's Mason Crosby kicked all five of his kickoffs into the Viking's end zone during their matchup, with two resulting in touchbacks. 

Philadelphia Eagles tight end L.J. Smith catches a touchdown pass against the Rams.
AP Photo/Tom Mihalek

Philadelphia Eagles tight end L.J. Smith was targeted six times in the red zone by quarterback Donovan McNabb during the team's stomping of the Rams. Smith caught four of the passes, including one for a touchdown. No other player was targeted more than three times in the red zone during Week 1 action. Out of those eight players who had three chances, the Steelers' Hines Ward and the Colts' Reggie Wayne made the most of their chances. Ward caught all three passes, including two scores, while Wayne grabbed two passes, including one for a touchdown.

Eight starting quarterbacks completed at least 75 percent of their passes on first down last week.  Falcons rookie Matt Ryan hit all five of his attempts on first down while Matt Schaub of the Texans completed fourteen of fifteen attempts for an impressive 93.3 percent. The other hot quarterbacks on first down included the Packers' Aaron Rodgers (81.8), the 49ers' J.T. O'Sullivan (80.0), the Lions' Jon Kitna (78.6), the Bills' Trent Edwards (77.8), the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger (75.0) and the Saints' Drew Brees (75.0).

Heading into the second weekend of NFL action, the offensive lines of the Ravens, Cowboys, Broncos, Packers and Eagles are the only ones that haven't surrendered a sack. At the other end of the spectrum, the Jaguars allowed seven sacks during their opening day loss against Tennesee while the Texans and Seahawks each allowed five sacks.

When their teams were faced with a third-and-long situation, six players were targeted at least three times last week.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked to Joey Galloway five times in Week 1 when they needed at least eight yards on third down to move the chains. He caught three of the passes, but only succeeded in getting the first down once. The Redskins' Santana Moss got four opportunities, catching three passes, but he also only reached the first-down marker one time. The Titans' Justin Gage, Rams RB Steven Jackson, Seahawks TE Jeb Putzier and the Broncos' Brandon Stokley each got three chances to help their teams. Putzier didn't catch any of the passes, while Jackson grabbed two, but didn't get a new set of downs for his team after either catch.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.

Statistics referenced in this article are provided by STATS, LLC. Copyright 2008 by STATS, LLC. Any use or distribution of such Licensed Materials without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited. 

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