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Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Updated: May 5, 10:08 AM ET
Free will do Cowboys' bidding on line

By Matt Mosley
ESPN.com

IRVING, Texas -- One of the most important things to do when overreacting to a rookie minicamp other than not attending one is to obsess about a certain player's "body control." After reading several accounts of this past weekend's camp and observing two days with my own eyes, I'm convinced that Dez Bryant is the reincarnation of Jerry Rice and John Taylor if they were somehow cloned in a genetic experiment which Jerry Jones may or may not have commissioned.

Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant seemingly left it all out on the field during his first minicamp with the Dallas Cowboys.
When he wasn't bending over to yak, Bryant was catching poorly thrown passes from quarterbacks who stumbled onto the practice field while searching for jobs in marketing. I must admit that watching Bryant twist his body to snare a pass with one hand is enough to give a man pause. But I kept trying to remind myself that he was doing this against former Texas Tech great Jamar Wall, who apparently purchased his spikes off the rack at Dick's Sporting Goods.

Having realized that the Valley Ranch press corps would focus on Bryant's first minicamp, I broke away from the pack and sought out offensive line coach Hudson Houck. He seemed somewhat surprised by my interest given the fact the Cowboys only spent one draft pick on a tall, white offensive tackle with questionable feet. But it's not Sam Young that I wanted to discuss.

I wanted to focus on the growing legend of left tackle Doug Free, a man whose very presence allowed Jones to cut ties with perennial Pro Bowler Flozell Adams. Houck's coached some of the best offensive linemen in the league over the years (Jackie Slater, Erik Williams, Larry Allen, Nate Newton of ESPN 103.3), so I asked him if Free reminded him of anyone.

Doug Free
Doug Free was speechless when he found out that Flozell Adams was no longer on the roster. Coach Hudson Houck said Free just nodded his head and went back to working out.
"He's not like any of those guys," Houck said after pondering the hard-hitting question. "He's a pretty quick guy, and I just think he can really excel once he has a player in his sights."

Houck was really impressed with how Free reacted once he was informed Adams was no longer on the roster. The hulking player simply nodded his head and went back to working out, which is how most conversations go with Free. Houck thinks Free has the mental makeup to handle one of the most difficult and valued positions on the field.

Houck, an avid golfer, compared Free's growing confidence to someone who steps over a tee shot knowing he's going to put the ball in the fairway.

"At some point, Doug just started eliminating all the uncertainty," said Houck. "It's like he's standing over a putt, but in this case, he's getting ready for a pass-set or a drive block."

The Cowboys love Free's athleticism, but he has some room to grow in the "explosiveness" category. Free's footwork is excellent for a guy who doesn't have a lot of experience, but he could certainly add more power to his game. In the end, Houck knows it's simply about staying in front of the guy lining up across from you.

"And he can do that," Houck said. "I think he'll be able to do that for a good while."

I also peppered Houck with questions about who will back up both Free and right tackle Marc Colombo.

"Now that's a good question," he said.

I'll do some more investigating on that one and get back to you during the next minicamp. Until then, I recommend obsessing about who will replace Ken Hamlin at safety.

Matt Mosley writes weekly on the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.