Dwight Freeney is an explosive player with a scary quick first step. He has a non-stop motor, can run all day long, and will beat you with a variety of moves. Just ask the man he will be lining up against this Sunday, OT LJ Shelton. ?
While he's become known for his incredible spin move, he has plenty of weapons. He can bull rush. He can beat you outside or inside. He can spin off your initial blocks. Quite simply, he's just constantly moving.?
"You can't rest on Freeney," Shelton recently told a reporter. "You have to account for him on every down or your QB will be in serious trouble."
Freeney's ability to get on the outside edge quickly puts pressure on the entire left side of an offensive line. That in turn creates one-on-one match-ups for the Colts defensive tackles to exploit.
Freeney also plays with such great leverage that he can take the offensive tackle and knock him back into the quarterback. He's becoming more and more of a playmaker, the one who comes up big at crucial points. Although Freeney will likely never turn into a quick shed defensive end and has trouble playing the run right at him, he is much improved against the run and is not easily mauled even when matched up against offensive tackles with huge weight advantages.
LJ Shelton is a massive, wide body. In fact, he has a 75-pound weight advantage over Freeney. His lack of quickness on the perimeter, however, caused previous coaches to think he might be better suited as a guard instead of an offensive tackle. That has not been the case in Cleveland.
Even though it's only been two games, he is playing his best football in a long time and doing it from the tackle position. Shelton has excellent overall strength, can engulf defenders with his huge body, and be very effective in the run game. He also has an excellent initial punch and knows how to use his hands and long arms well.
But Shelton lacks speed and range. As a result, he's very vulnerable when put on an island against quick defensive ends. Cleveland knows this and will give the guy plenty of help from a wide arrary of sources, including the left guard, tight ends, fullbacks and even running backs.
Following their game last week, Packers DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila said he made a tactical mistake against Browns Shelton.
"I never did take the fight to (Shelton) until it was too late," he said. "He was so busy playing my speed. He knew the quarterback wouldn?t drop deep, so he just used his long arms to keep me out there, and I was playing right into his hands."
Expect Shelton to play Freeney in a very similiar fashion this week. But unlike KGB, Freeney will take the fight to Shelton from the get-go and not just focus on beating LJ with his speed.
Key Matchup: Dwight Freeney vs L.J. Shelton
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