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Dissecting film -- not just spin move -- has helped Dwight Freeney flourish

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Seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney offered simple advice to teammate and fellow Atlanta Falcons pass-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. leading into last week’s game.

Freeney saw the movements of Los Angeles Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein on film and knew Beasley could flourish.

"I advised Vic to use his athleticism against No. 79," Freeney said. "I said, 'All he wants you to do is run into him, so the last thing you want to do is run into him. Use these certain moves and you’ll win.' And Vic made plays."

Freeney by no means took credit for Beasley’s three-sack performance, which included a forced fumble, recovery and 21-yard touchdown return while lined up against the slow-footed Havenstein. But the knowledge Freeney has gained over 15 NFL seasons is wisdom he passes on to Beasley on a weekly basis.

"When I take Vic and I help him out on certain things, I’m not going to overload him with all types of stuff that he’s not ready to even think about," Freeney, 36, said. "I will analyze it for him to where he can understand it the best he can. So, I’ll help take out the gray area for him.

"I’ll see his strengths, so I try to talk to him about certain things he can do better -- and stay away from -- just so he doesn’t run into those issues. But even more than that, I’d like to see him be as successful as possible to feed his family and get a monster contract, plus lead the league in sacks. I’m just happy to still be part of the game where I can teach and help younger guys grow."

A large part of Freeney’s success over the years, outside of his signature spin move, has been his attention to detail while dissecting film. It’s something Falcons coach Dan Quinn noticed immediately when he spotted Freeney walking through the hallways with an iPad, going over film.

"I get cutups from coaches, so I’ll get kind of what a defensive coordinator would get," Freeney explained. "I can go through those cutups to see what [offenses] like to [do], what they don’t like to do with certain personnel on the field. And then from there, I would go into a film room or the iPad that we have and I would start breaking down the film based on what tendencies they have as a team.

"From there, I go to the individual to see what he likes to do; see what bothers him. I’ll go back years, if I have to, to see who has done well against him, what doesn’t go well against him. Then I’ll cater my game based on those studies. If I know him and if I know myself, I have more success. If I don’t know him but I know myself, I’ll have success half the time."

There are five elements Freeney looks for when breaking down an offensive tackle. The first is footwork, followed by hand placement. He analyzes how the tackle reacts to certain moves, then proceeds to evaluating whether the tackle is overaggressive or passive. Lastly, he checks how the tackle reacts based on scheme.

"It’s a matter of doing it long enough to know when there’s too much information," Freeney said of film study. "Paralysis by analysis, they say. You don’t want to be that. So I started trimming the fat to where I could get a good base of things to work on that particular week versus a particular guy."

Freeney certainly has had to prepare for his share of talented players. Asked which tackle over the years possessed the best footwork, he couldn't single out just one.

"Where he was just never out of position? I played against Walter Jones (Seahawks), Jonathan Ogden (Ravens) and Orlando Pace (Rams), and those guys are Hall of Famers," Freeney said. "I wouldn’t necessarily say they had the best footwork, but I think they were just gifted athletes.

"Ogden was a beast at 6-9, [345] pounds and moved like a 300-pound man. Then you've got Walter Jones, who was just country strong. Once he got a hold of you, there was no shaking him."

What about the best hands?

"You’ve got Brad Hopkins (Oilers, Titans)," Freeney said. "He wasn’t a big tackle, but he would grab you in different places and stop you from going. He actually made me build a new pad on my pads just to stop him because he would grab me in a certain way, and I don’t even know how he found that place to grab."

Freeney gave credit to another former Tennessee Titan, Michael Roos, for being an unheralded guy who gave him a tough battle every time. One guy Freeney never had to cram for was former Houston Texan Seth Wand.

"I used to love seeing Seth because Seth had a problem hanging with me," Freeney said with a laugh. "I think he lasted only two years, but I remember always saying, 'I want to see him so badly.' It wasn’t just the spin move. I used to do all types of stuff against him."

Although Freeney hasn’t watched film of all the new-age tackles, he did single out one in particular.

"That’s tough because I don’t give young guys credit until their fifth year," he said, "but you know who I like and who’s not bad? The guy from Green Bay, Bacardi or whatever his last name is (David Bakhtiari). I think he has something good going on there protecting Aaron Rodgers. Outside of that, bro, it’s hard for me to identify any young offensive tackles."

Freeney even watches some practice film of one guy in his own locker room.

"I like Jake [Matthews]," Freeney said. "I like Jake a lot, honestly. I play against him every day, so that’s a good one."

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