Dwight Freeney versus Khalif Barnes

Dwight Freeney takes on a player whose strengths match up perfectly to his. That makes this pairing one of the key matchups of the afternoon.

When Indianapolis hosted Jacksonville in Week 2, Ephraim Salaam was the Jaguars starting left tackle. Now that position and the responsibility of blocking Dwight Freeney will fall on rookie Khalif Barnes. Handling the speed and initial quickness of Dwight Freeney gives even the most experienced offensive linemen problems, so how this rookie deals with it will be something to watch.

No defensive end in professional football gets off the snap faster than Dwight Freeney. He just explodes as the ball moves from the center to the quarterback, using that quickness to beat most blockers to the edge. This in turn puts pressure on the entire left side of the opposing team's offensive line. Freeney couples this initial quickness with an excellent motor. He can run all day long. Blockers can't rest when he is on the field. Even if a blocker has position on him, he won't stop trying to find a way to beat him. He knows that the moment they let up even a little, he has them beat.

Besides using his speed, Freeney can also generate a bull rush, because he plays with such excellent leverage. His pass-rushing techniques are incredible. He can beat offensive tackles with his chop, rip, spin, swim moves or a combination of all of them. He still isn't a quick-shed defensive end and can have trouble playing the run right at him. This, however, should not be much of a problem this week. Barnes is great in pass protection, but needs work in the run game. 

The Jaguars believe they have found their answer for years to come at left tackle. Barnes definitely has a lot of upside. His athleticism and ability to move well allows him to slide his feet and protect his edges. He is a tremendous pass-blocker who would actually prefer to line-up against a speed rusher instead of a physical power rusher. He will get the ultimate speed test this weekend in Dwight Freeney. 

As a result, I doubt Jacksonville will leave the rookie one-on-one against Freeney often, so Freeney will see his fair share of double-teams and triple teams. The area of Barnes' game that still needs work is his run-blocking. He won't blow many defenders off the ball nor will he overpower you. He still needs to bulk up more and add muscle before becoming a force in the run game.

With neither player having a weakness that plays to the other's strength, this matchup will boil down to which one has his "A" game on Sunday. If they both bring it, you should see a tremendous battle all afternoon.


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