Doug Free, Cowboys' highest-paid OL, needs to play better

September, 25, 2012
9/25/12
12:52
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys' highest-paid offensive lineman, tackle Doug Free, has struggled this season. He's been penalized a team-leading six times, which include four false starts and two holding calls.

Pro Football Focus, which grades every NFL player, cites Free with allowing one sack, two quarterback hits and seven quarterback hurries through three games.

Is that good or bad for a player who signed a four-year $32 million deal last year?

"We expect a lot from all of our players," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said when asked about his right tackle, who averages $8 million a season. "At times, Doug did a real good job in (Tampa Bay) game and other times he didn't. You could say that for our entire offense. Really, as well as our defense played and as well as our special teams played you can make similar comments about them as well.

"Our thing is we come back in here and try to watch the tape play by play, player by player and put the results of the game behind us and try and learn from the experience. We did that (Monday). here were some good things Doug can build off and some other things he's got to correct just like everybody."

Free should be commended for making a switch in positions. He was the left tackle last season, but when the Cowboys decided to move Tyron Smith from the right tackle spot, Free agreed to the change with no fuss.

On the field, Free has to get much better in attacking defenders and seems to be overpowered at times.

"I think he needs to be firmer," Garrett said. "There were times in the ballgame, the defense end got into him and knocked him back, but there were other times he regained his anchor and sat in there and blocked him pretty well. Being consistent and not getting pushed back into the quarterback would be first and foremost. There were a couple of other things that came up that led to some pressures and some hurries on the quarterback but that's across the board."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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