Fifth in a series breaking down the Cowboys by position (previous entries):
Good bet: Robert Brewster
On the bubble: Sam Young
Flozell Adams is gone, but the Cowboys should be fine at tackle.
Doug Free proved me wrong for eight games, and he’ll benefit from playing next to consistent Kyle Kosier. I thought there was going to be a collapse when Free replaced injured Marc Colombo last season, a chink in the armor, but that didn’t happen. He’s everything you want in a tackle but strong, and he can improve that. The footwork is going to be totally different for him on the left side, but the guy is smart enough to make those adjustments. He got a taste of left tackle in the playoff game in Minnesota last year and held his own. He’s got a great knack of keeping himself between the defender and the quarterback. He’s more of a get-in-the-way, shield run blocker than a physical, point-of-attack push blocker. That’s fine for a left tackle. He’ll be doing a lot of cut-offs, reaches and things like that, which is right up his alley. This guy is a good player in space.
Two years ago, Colombo was the Cowboys’ most consistent offensive linemen. But his performance in last season’s playoff loss was by far his worst in a Cowboys uniform. He has toughness, desire, nastiness. He really brings an attitude to the way he plays. He’s effective blocking on the edge in the running game. His footwork in pass protection was flawed in the playoffs last season, but that’s probably because of rust and being less than 100 percent after rushing back from a broken fibula. When healthy, he’s still effective in space in the running game, a good second-level blocker and is able to finish his blocks. He tends to bend at the waist and get overextended in pass protection, but he’s a fighter and scrapper. The technique is never pretty with this guy, but he manages to get the job done.
Alex Barron is dancing bear. He has outstanding, quick feet, but his strength is marginal. He has trouble finishing blocks, but his athletic ability can get him out of trouble. I like his ability to mirror the defender in pass protection, but he doesn’t always have the strength to sustain his block. He’s very good in space but lacks push in the running game. His high amount of penalties indicates that he has concentration lapses, which is a concern. He has almost five full seasons as an NFL starter, so he’s great value as a backup swing tackle.
I don’t know anything about Brewster other than what I’ve seen in T-shirts and shorts. The Cowboys probably made the deal for Barron because they didn’t know what they had with Brewster. He’s a bad body guy, but he has decent feet. He might project more as a guard than a tackle.
Young has a better body of work than Brewster, as a highly decorated high school recruit who set a Notre Dame record for games started, playing against good competition on a weekly basis. He’s much stronger than I anticipated. He’s competitive, and his feet and hands work well together. He reminds some of Colombo.