This week's column Free, scout's honor

IRVING -- For the first time in his three seasons with the Cowboys, offensive tackle Doug Free drew a crowd at his locker this week at Valley Ranch. The only problem was that the former Northern Illinois great had no interest in talking.

The Valley Ranch press corps has been given the high-hat by many a player over the years, but Free's refusal to field questions really seemed to strike a nerve. Reporters demanded some Free time, and on Thursday the Cowboys' new starting right tackle succumbed to league pressure and fielded questions for a few minutes.

I couldn't get Free on Thursday, but I'm told he delivered a stirring performance while conducting the interview in front of Marc Colombo's locker.

"Before I was just kind of watching," Free said. "You see things happen out on the field and try to help the guys out on the field as much as you can. But now the roles have kind of changed and stuff. You're no longer sitting on the side, you're going to be out there, so you got to react to what's happening out there."

Folks, those are quotes worth fighting for in a day and age in which obscure offensive linemen are in more demand then ever. Because the Obstructed View mailbag (under construction) was full of questions about Free, I've put together the definitive Doug Free scouting report. On Thursday, I spoke to two AFC scouts and one director of personnel in the NFC who gave me the goods on Free. Clip and save for future reference:

All three scouts agreed that Free is a good "foot athlete," meaning that he moves really well laterally and is light on his feet -- especially for a man who stands at 6-foot-6 inches. To the naked eye, Free is not a particularly athletic looking individual (my assessment), but one of the AFC scouts insisted that he "slides his feet well, mirrors well and uses his size to cover defenders" in the running game.

The NFC scout told me that he'd prefer to have a good pass-blocker who needs improvement in the run-blocking department than the other way around. And that's the case with Free, who caught scouts' eyes by performing really well against big-time competition such as Auburn and several other schools that you've heard of. (Do not bring up the TCU bowl game. The tape has been destroyed by Northern Illinois).

"He's not a power player," said one of the AFC scouts. "He's got some leverage disadvantages in terms of playing with pad level. He's not a pure road-grading drive blocker."

My panel of esteemed anonymous voices agreed that Free would be most susceptible to the bull-rush because of that lack of power. And that just happens to be something Redskins rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo does really well. Orakpo, a candidate for rookie of the year with seven sacks this season, told 103.3 ESPN's "Galloway and Company" show Thursday that he thought the Cowboys' offense looked confused as to which Packers to block in Sunday's 17-7 loss. It's probably not a good sign when you're getting called out by rookies who play for 3-6 teams.

I've had people within the Cowboys organization tell me that Free had extremely "good value" in the fourth round of the '07 draft. I checked that out with my scouts, and they concurred.

One of the AFC scouts said his team had a third-round grade on Free, so that's a good sign. Free can play either left or right tackle, but most everyone I've talked to thinks he's better suited for the right side. The Cowboys drafted Free at a time when there was a chance left tackle Flozell Adams and right tackle Marc Colombo could've been headed for free agency in the near future. The Cowboys were able to re-sign both players, but they've continued to prepare Free for a starting role. Now, he'll get the chance.

Earlier this season, there was internal debate at Valley Ranch on whether the Cowboys should rotate Free in for a series or two each game at left tackle. The Cowboys ended up deciding that it would be disruptive to the offense. Now, they can get a long look at Free.

"He's not going to do anything flashy," said an AFC scout, who watched a lot of film on Free from his college days. "But I think he'll be fine."

Now, please continue reading for a bonus note on the Mavs:

Beaubois is French for excitement: I respect Dirk Nowitzki's work as much as the next guy. I don't quite agree with our Mavs play-by-play voice Chuck Cooperstein that he's the most "accomplished" player in the history of professional sports in the Metroplex, but that's an argument for another day.



Right now, I'd like to celebrate the (early) arrival of rookie point guard Rodrigue Beaubois. I was sort of intrigued when the Mavericks signed him based on his freakish wingspan and long-range shooting ability. But he wasn't supposed to play a vital role on this team until 2010-11 at the earliest.

Now, coach Rick Carlisle can't keep Beaubois off the floor. He's given the Mavs energy early in games and it's actually refreshing to have a shoot-first point guard on the roster. I know Beaubois has a long way to go, but his fearless approach is something this team needs. I realize that Jason Kidd is one of the best point guards of all-time, but it's still infuriating to see him refuse wide-open layups in favor of no-look passes to unsuspecting big men.

Dirk's been great this season, but Roddy's the player I'm most interested in right now.

Thanks for your continued support of Obstructed View. We couldn't do it without you, although I've considered that option. All my best.