Two Tackles To Take On Freeney

Rookie Duane Brown is the starting left tackle for the Houston Texans. However, the Texans rest him every third series and veteran Ephraim Salaam is inserted into the game. Why do they do this? Here's a brief history lesson on Houston's left tackles in 2008.

Brown began the year as the starter. He gave up three sacks to the Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison in their opener, struggled mightily against Kyle Vanden Bosch the following week and Joey Porter gave him all kinds of fits in Week 6. Those are tough assignments even for Pro Bowl left tackles, let alone rookies beginning their careers.

Nonetheless, it was after the Miami game that Coach Gary Kubiak decided to implement the rotation. Kubiak noted that Brown's struggles seemed to compound in the second half of games, so it was it hope that the rotation will result in a fresher Brown.

Still, Duane Brown and Salaam have their problems with speed no matter what quarter of the game it is. Vikings defensive end Jared Allen beat both Brown and Salaam on his way to putting QB Matt Schaub out of commission for a month.

LT Duane Brown
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"On the Texans' first series of the game, Allen beat left tackle Duane Brown and hit Schaub low while defensive tackle Kevin Williams hit him high," the Houston Chronicle's John McClain explained. "On the first series of the second quarter, Allen got away from left tackle Ephraim Salaam and hit Schaub low again."

When asked last week how the Texans left tackle rotation would handle Baltimore's Terrell Suggs, Editor Charlie Bernstein made this observation: "Houston starts a rookie at left tackle in Duane Brown and subs in with a very average to below average veteran in Ephraim Salaam. To put it simply, I think Suggs will be able to disrupt the Texans offense by getting into the backfield."

Charlie was right. Suggs wreaked all kinds of havoc in the Ravens 41-13 dismantling of the Texans.

Opinionated CBS Sportsline writer Pete Prisco also had a not so flattering take on the Texans tackle rotation, writing that "The Texans are rotating left tackles, giving rookie Duane Brown, the starter, about 15 plays off a game. What's the point? They say it keeps him fresh to put Ephraim Salaam in the game. I say it's a sign they don't believe in him fully. I hate rotating starters. By the way, I call Salaam 'The Turnstile.' You know what that means."

At Virginia Tech, the coaching staff decided to move Brown from tight end to offensive tackle. So in reality, he's only been playing left tackle for about three and a half seasons. Coming into this year's draft the scouting experts at War Room Report took that into account and wrote a draft analysis of Duane Brown that has seemed almost prophetic, "Duane Brown is no where near where he needs to be from a fundamental standpoint to become a factor in the National Football League ... he struggles mightily with footwork and at times can be overwhelmed by speedy pass rushers off the edge."'s Tom Marino had a slightly different opinion in his assessment this spring before the Draft. "(Brown) really struggled with big people. I did like his feet and body balance on pass protection, but was bull rushed and had problems with his anchor. Not as good as he should be, but has too much athletic potnetial to throw in the scrap heap."

Can Dwight Freeney take advantage? It might just tell us how close Freeney is to regaining his old form. In their first meeting and in support of coach Kubiak's theory, Duane Brown did a decent job on a whole against Freeney in the first half. But in the second half gave up a sack and forced fumble to Freeney.

Every week, Dwight Freeney seems to get just a little quicker, just a tad healthier and hopefully this is all coalescing at the right time. Besides dealing with the youngster, Brown, Freeney will also see some snaps against Ephraim Salaam.

Given that Salaam has played in the AFC South since 2004 with Jacksonville and now Houston, he and Freeney are quite acquainted with one another. In five career starts against each other, Freeney has amassed a total of 3 sacks, but plenty of pressures and hurries.

Dwight's speed will usually give Salaam headaches, but the 11-year veteran is savvy enough and so familiar with Freeney that he can usually figure out ways to neutralize the speed rush. So when lining up against Salaam, that's when you might see Dwight employ more of a combination of moves. Against the rookie, Freeney will likely opt to go with speed first.

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