- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys right tackle Doug Free leads the team with six penalties and is second in the NFL with four false start penalties.
Free also has two holding calls, tied for third in the league.
To say Free's first three weeks have been bad is an understatement.
"It needs improvement, definitely," Free said Wednesday. "I haven't pass protected well enough, (we) haven't run the ball well enough and (I) definitely contributed to (that with) what I've done. I don't think I've done a good enough job and we got to get it fixed, and I have to fix it and I have to take the good coaching and keep working the techniques that I have been taught and really focus on it."
The pre-snap penalties bother the Cowboys' coaches more than anything. Left tackle Tyron Smith and Free have been flagged a combined nine times for false starts. Smith's five false starts leads the NFL.
You can say some of the false starts could be attributed to center Ryan Cook, who has started two games and made his season debut three snaps after starting center Phil Costa re-injured his back in Week 1.
"It's mainly on me and Ty, we just got to focus more," Free said. "I think the distance from the center could contribute to some of that, but I ain't going to blame it on all that. Just a matter (of) we have to focus better and really stay focused on what the count is and just have our stuff ready and right for the next game."
In 2010, Free was the starting right tackle. He moved to the left tackle spot last year. But now Smith is the left tackle and Free is back to the right side. Other than a few technique issues, such as hand stance and foot placement, it's not like Free hasn't played this position before. Yet he's struggling at it.
"It's been a little bit of a challenge, but it's nothing that I can't handle," he said. "It's nothing that won't get taken care of."