Colts Key Matchup: Freeney vs Spencer

A highly-touted rookie takes on one of the best at his trade when Texans OT Charles Spencer battles Colts DE Dwight Freeney this Sunday in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Greg Talmage shares his insight on this key matchup...

Coming into the 2006 draft, the Houston Texans had OT Charles "Big Nasty" Spencer ranked as the second-best OT in college football behind D'Brickashaw Ferguson. That should tell you just how highly they regard the young offensive tackle and why he was protecting David Carr's blindside in his first professional start last weekend. Houston finally believes the organization might have the left tackle they've been looking for ever since the Tony Boselli debacle. With any NFL rookie, however, there's a learning curve and period of adjustment. The Texans and Spencer experienced that firsthand in Week 1.

After giving up two sacks to Eagles defensive end Trent Cole last week, Charles Spencer said in his postgame comments, "They didn't do anything we didn't expect. The defensive ends were just a lot faster than I expected them to be."

Well, Mr. Spencer, you haven't seen anything yet, because this week you line up across from Dwight Freeney on the fast turf of the RCA Dome.

Dwight Freeney is one of the premier speed rushers in the NFL. His explosive first step and initial quickness allow him to beat most blockers to the edge. Freeney plays with excellent leverage; he has the ability to bull-rush and uses his strength to knock any OT back. Besides speed and power, he also has a plethora of pass rush moves from the spin to the swim or the club to beat his opponent.

Freeney seems to improve each year against the run. He's becoming better at shedding blockers, but will have trouble playing the run right at him. His speed can be a negative if he overpursues and gets forced outside and away from the play.

Charles Spencer's athleticism, foot quickness, agility and playing speed are hard to find in an OT his size. But his technique still leaves a little to be desired in certain areas. He plays too straight-legged and too high at times. This hinders his lateral movement and ability to adjust. In college, he had success against speed/edge rushers because he got a good knee bend, slid out to the corner to cut the attacker off and then re-directed and slid back inside to handle their quick inside moves. This is exactly what he'll need to do to be successful on Sunday.

There will be a lot of focus on this matchup by both sides this week. Freeney has 5 sacks in his last 3 games against Houston. So the Texans knows the importance of slowing him down and will likely give Spencer plenty of blocking help. For the Colts, its about using speed to get the young rookie back on his heels and out of his stance.

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