As much as Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney would like to take on rookie left tackle Jared Veldheer one-on-one, he’s not counting on it.
“Normally what happens when I go against a rookie is there are two other guys with him,” Freeney told Bay Area reporters by conference call Wednesday. “I’m sure they’re going to scheme and not just leave him by himself. That wouldn’t be too smart.”
With eight sacks and two games to play, Freeney is two shy of his seventh season with double-digit sacks. He has five forced fumbles, giving him 41 for his career.
Freeney and left end Robert Mathis, who has three 10-plus sack seasons, form the NFL’s best outside pass rushing duo. The Raiders will counter with Veldheer at left tackle, either Langston Walker or Mario Henderson at right tackle, and plenty of help from extra lineman Khalif Barnes, tight end Zach Miller and chipping from running backs and fullback Marcel Reece.
Veldheer got this dose of faint praise from Freeney: “He’s done a decent job. He hasn’t done an overly great job, he’s hung in there.”
Even against veteran left tackles, Freeney estimates he gets two or three plays per game with single blocking other than three-step drops where the ball is out quickly. Otherwise, it’s a guard and tackle, a tight end and tackle or running back and tackle _ and often on both sides.
The best way to deal with Freeney and Mathis is to simply be effective running the ball, and the Colts’ veteran has a healthy respect for Oakland’s running game.
“They do a lot of different things, a lot of reverses, use their speed to their advantage,” Freeney said. “You can’t book ’em for just one thing.”
Listening to Freeney discuss the Colts’ 29th-ranked run defense is similar to the way Tommy Kelly describes Oakland’s issues with “stop, stop . . boom.”
“Sometimes people look at the stats and say, Oh, Colts are 29th in the NFL against the run, so they’re horrible against the run, and that may not be the whole truth,” Freeney said. “Normally the average is high for us because of one run. It’s not like every run is eight yards a pop. It will be one run, 80 yards, with one or two guys out of their gap, which will skew the whole stats.”
Indianapolis is coming off a 34-24 win over Jacksonville which gave the Colts control of their own destiny as far as the AFC South race, holding Maurice Jones Drew and the Jaguars to 67 rushing yards in the process.
“What we did the last game was make sure 11 guys play together, not just once in awhile,” Freeney said, adding that Oakland’s big-play ability is a concern.
“Obviously they have home run ability, and it’s going to be very important that we wrap up and two or three guys get around that ballcarrier,” Freeney said. “We can’t just rely on one guy making the tackle because they’er very good at making guys miss.”