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Broaddus: Breaking Down Starters At Offensive Tackle
One of the biggest questions during training camp this past season was how would Tyron Smith adjust from right to the left side and would Doug Free play better than he did in 2011? Initially Smith did have his problems but it wasn’t because of his ability but more of having to make the adjustment in the way he set on defenders. There is a difference in the way you slide away from the line with your feet, then how you deliver the punch with your hands. There was going to be a period where Smith needed to work all this out. When Smith is really on, he explodes out of his stance and gets lateral quickly. Where defenders took advantage of him at times is when he set too wide then worked underneath but with each passing game, Smith got better and setting with more balance and not so much on his outside foot which allowed him to adjust better.
Free once again struggled with his technique but where Free is completely different than Smith is he doesn’t play with the brute strength that he has. If Smith gets in trouble his foot work can get him out of trouble but it is his power that can put him back in position. Free doesn’t have that upper body power nor in the lower as well. If Free misses with his punch, he has trouble resetting his hands, then sitting down on his man. When Free really gets in trouble is when he plays too tall and upright. There were too many times this past season where smaller rushers were able to what scouts like to say “Walk the dog” back into Romo. The Browns game was a prime example, when Jabaal Sheard at 255 pounds played inside on him several times and was able to carry him into the backfield. It one thing to have to deal with a smaller rusher’s speed but when they are able to carry you into the quarterback, then there are problems.
In a development that took place after the Philadelphia, was that Bill Callahan convinced Jason Garrett to allow Jeremy Parnell to split snaps with Doug Free after Parnell had a nice showing in that game at left tackle filling in for the injured Smith during the Washington game. Parnell and Free alternated in the Bengals game at right tackle and continued to do so through the final game of the season. Parnell played well enough that he will be a serious consideration if the club has to make a cost cutting move on Free. What was interesting about the two players alternating is that Free’s play did improve. It seemed to refocus him and the 50 or so snaps that he played were of better quality. Where Parnell must improve is that he has to be more consistent down after down. There were times where he would have five quality plays in a row, then he would lapse in concentration with his technique and he would struggle.
A player to keep an eye on when this team goes to camp next Summer is Darrion Weems who they took off Denver’s practice squad. I studied him when he was with the Patriots this past year and I have to say that I was impressed with his moment and ability. Remember the Cowboys took Parnell off the Saints practice squad and developed his game as well. Weems seems to have that same kind of traits but plays with more power than Parnell did initially. Any time you can poach an offensive linemen off a team and he develops, it’s like stealing for scouts.