Key Matchup: Freeney vs Clement

Greg Talmage takes a look at a battle that came onto the radar as a key matchup due to the 49ers' injury problem at left offensive tackle.

When playing the Indianapolis Colts there are two positions where you don't want to be forced to play reserves due to injuries to your starters -- cornerback and offensive tackle. 

San Francisco will be doing both this weekend.

Starting left tackle Jonas Jennings is out with a shoulder injury. And since the 49ers have a bye after this week, Jennings is going to rest this week and use that extra time off to get his shoulder healthy. So LT Anthony Clement drew the short straw and gets to face Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney.

You would be hard-pressed to name a defender playing better than RE Dwight Freeney is right now. He was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September and is tied with Robert Mathis for the team lead in sacks (4) and is second on the team with quarterback pressures (6) behind defensive tackle Montae Reagor (7).

Freeney features a frighten explosive first step. He plays with an excellent motor and can run all day long. One of Dwight's favorite techniques is to use misdirection by starting with an outside pass rush, but instead of using the club move, he will spin back inside to beat the offensive tackle. This double-move is effective for him because he has incredible quickness and balance. Opposing tackles cannot rest against him -- he's a relentless pass rusher that you have to account for on every down. In addition to using his speed to get by opposing linemen, he can also use generate a bull rush because he plays with such excellent leverage. He also has excellent closing speed and knows how to finish. 

Clement is a big physical mauler, who excels in the run game. He has great natural strength and will use that and his size to engulf defenders. Also uses his size to get a good initial pop and to force edge rushers to widen their rush lanes. But his greatest weakness is his lack of quickness. He plays too stiff and straight-lined. He has marginal lateral movement skills and struggles to hit a moving target. These are not good attributes for anyone who has the assignment of blocking Dwight Freeney. 

Clement is in big trouble if forced to play on an island against a quick defensive end. That was evidenced last week when the Arizona Cardinals' Bertrand Berry made Anthony Clement look foolish on several occasions. Given that last week was Clements's first start for the San Francisco, they now have a better handle for what he can and cannot do. As a result, Dwight Freeney can expect to see plenty of double and triple teams. 49ers head coach Mike Nolan has emphasized that tight ends and running backs likely give Clement some help on Sunday. 

But that won't be unusual for Freeney. Such is the life of the Defensive Player of the Month.


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