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Mailbag: How Did The Interior Line Affect Free’s Play Outside?
Doug Free had a rough year last year. Is there any merit to the notion that the poor interior line play had a ripple effect? With an expected stronger interior, should we expect a better year from Doug Free?
Bryan: You should expect a better year from Free if he improves his technique. If he doesn’t punch and allows his hands to work outside the framework of the rusher’s body and he doesn’t get separation, he will struggle like he has the last two seasons. When Free has a chance, he gets his hands inside on the rusher and this allows him to sit down. When he misses with his hands and he gets too high, he has no shot. There are strength issues with him at times and this is because of his hands. With him it has never been about his feet but watch when he misses with his punch, it’s not good.
Rowan: That’s what the team expects. Otherwise, a player like Tyson Clabo would have already been on the team. The Cowboys’ executives brought in Travis Frederick hoping he could solidify the base of the line and make everyone else around him better. Still, Free has to win more on his 1-on-1’s. If he plays at the level he did early on last year, strong center play may not do much. The difference entering this year is he’ll have to earn the spot with Jermey Parnell pushing him. The Cowboys liked what they saw out of Free as he rotated with Parnell last year.
Drafting Terrence Williams makes it seem like the Cowboys aren't really sold on Cole Beasley or Dwayne Harris to secure the third receiver spot. Why the lack of confidence? Dwayne Harris really seemed to play well whenever he was given the opportunity.
Bryan: There is a new receivers coach in the mix, and for Beasley and Harris it’s like starting over. I am not saying that neither player could make a run at that third receiver spot, but there are more limitations with their overall game than what the scouts saw in Williams. I honestly believe that Williams was brought in for Miles Austin’s spot down the road if the cap situation once again gets tight. Williams has a shot to develop more as a starter than say Harris or Beasley but I do not see either of them going quietly in this camp.
Rowan: I don’t think it’s a lack of confidence in the other players as much as it is value at the spot. They at least considered Williams with the 31st pick because of his talent, so when he was still around in the third round, they pounced at the opportunity to get the NCAA’s leading receiver last year. Consequently, that may mean fewer opportunities for Beasley and Harris. But the pick was made because of what Williams can bring to the team and not necessarily because of the play of the other receivers.