Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Cowboys [Print without images]

Thursday, December 15, 2011
Doug Free with tough challenges

By Calvin Watkins

IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys left tackle Doug Free has faced some difficult times of late.

Free is credited with allowing six sacks and three quarterback hits this season, according to Pro Football Focus, which grades the snaps of every NFL player.

"You can always play better," Free said after Thursday's practice. "If there's ever a point you don't think you can play any better, I don't think it's not the way. I can always play better."

The last three weeks, Free has taken on Miami's Randy Starks, Arizona's Calais Campbell and the New York Giants Jason Pierre-Paul.

Pierre-Paul had eight tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal on Sunday night.

Not all on Free, of course. But he was very busy.

"Just got to figure out what your game is going to be against him and stuff," Free said of Pierre-Paul. "Nothing personal against him. Everybody plays a little different and that's kind of his playing style. It's something you got to get in your head and kinda get ready for."

On Saturday night, Free will be facing Bucs rookie Adrian Clayborn, who leads the team with 6.5 sacks and 24 quarterback pressures. The Eagles' Trent Cole (nine sacks) is next and a rematch, and a rematch vs. Pierre-Paul looms in the regular-season finale on New Year's Day.

The next three weeks are not only big for Free, but the Cowboys as a whole.

"It's huge," Free said of the next three weeks. "We got a lot of tough teams to play and two division games, and it's going to be a tough couple weeks and we have to get it locked down and get it going."