Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Biggest Issue in Training Camp

I am watching LT pretty closely here in camp (as I am sure everyone else is, too). The question, of course, is "are the Cowboys nuts for saying goodbye to Flozell Adams" in a cost-saving move during the spring.

As I review last season, I recognize that he had one of his tougher campaigns (just today the Denver game story was posted below and detailed how Elvis Dumervil made him look silly for most of the afternoon). Nevertheless, I am used to the Cowboys doing things because they are the right football move and not the right financial move - we leave that to Tom Hicks.

So, to watch Doug Free at LT does give me great pause. Now, the good news is that we will know soon enough what he has at LT because he faces #94 and #93 daily in practice. But, as these 6 weeks go on, we are also left with the stomach ache issue of "if he is not good enough to play left tackle at a Super Bowl level, then what do we do?"

The answer is very disturbing.

You have Alex Barron - who as they old scout cliche goes: "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane". Barron is literally the most slender 315 pound human alive. He has a waist smaller than mine and would clearly be on the Dick Vitale "all airport team" for guys who look like they would be really great players when they walk through the airport. But, let's examine reality for a moment on Barron.

1) - 75 penalties in 58 starts is an amazing pace that would make Flozell blush.
2) - The Rams felt so strongly about his future that they traded him for Bobby Carpenter.
3) - Reread #2

Both players have strength issues that seem to really concern critics. Free has always had very quick feet but did not have the ability to "drop anchor" on the corner and stand a speed rusher up before he can get around the edge. Last year, in many games at Right Tackle, he performed very well, but I do think we need to consider that the Cowboys gave him help and also did not ask him to stand on an island by himself much.

Well, in the NFL and at Left Tackle, the whole job is about being on an island. Defensive Coordinators live to figure out ways with blitzing and presnap adjustments to put you on an island against their best speed rusher. The last thing you want is Jason Witten holding his hand all season rather than being in pass routes.

The test for Free will not be to look at how many sacks he allows. The true test for Doug Free will be how often the Cowboys can have their TEs downfield and how often the Cowboys can just run their offense - rather than run their offense while adjusting for a sub-par Left Tackle. If they have to help him and limit their play calling, then we have a problem.

And we will know the answer to those questions by Week 3.


Brian said...


Love the insight, but not sure I agree that LT is the biggest problem for the Cowboys.

Take a look at the last few teams to win the Super Bowl, and who they threw out at left tackle.

2009 Saints: Jermon Bushrod...doubtful that he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

2008 Steelers: Maybe the worst offensive line ever to bring home a Super Bowl, anchored by an extremely mediocre combination of Max Starks and Marvel Smith at LT.

2007 Giants: David Diehl started every game for NYG that season. He's made the Pro Bowl once in 7 years. Not a legend by any means.

2006 Colts: Tarik Glenn protected Peyton's backside that year. A fine player and probably the best LT to be part of a Super Bowl winning team in the last 5 years.

I know left tackle is an important position, but you can win with a serviceable player out there. Is there any argument that Doug Free is a terrible football player? If anything, I'm more worried about Marc Colombo coming back from injury at right tackle. He looked embarrassingly bad in the playoffs last year.

I'm most worried about safety. We all saw what an impact Darren Sharper made on the Saints' D last season. If the Cowboys can't force more turnovers this year, there's no point talking about the Super Bowl.

P1 Steven said...

What a GREAT response by Brian. Lets remember that Leonard Davis was a slight underperformer as well (not as bad as Barron). Sometimes a successful team can be what cures a players perfomance issues. Is there an OL rating system? Something that combines sacks surrendured w/ penalties? Although there would be some issues with a stat like that... I still would rather my OL take a hold rather than allow the QB to be nailed. I certainly hope The Cowboys will target OL in next years draft. & What if Flozell is still out there to start the season? Any interest? ... IF the Free/Barron experiment aren't going so well.