In the media portion of practice on Wednesday, we were able to observe Doug Free working at right guard, Jermey Parnell at right tackle and Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard.
To be honest, I am not one bit surprised of trying different combinations in training camp because that gives you the best opportunity to see how these players might mesh without having it hurt you in the regular season. Test ideas out now, don't wait until it might cost you a game or two. It's a proactive move.
When you are playing games that count, the offensive line is traditionally one of those positions like quarterback that you do not want to constantly adjust your lineup. You want to set your five guys and go to work with that group and allow them to develop as the season wears on.
In 2012, it was very unusual that the front office and coaching staff made the determination that rotating a struggling Doug Free and Jermey Parnell was a necessary move but they actually made it work to the point that it improved Free's overall play and provided valuable experience for Parnell.
Looking at Doug Free playing guard is not the problem here because there are some actual traits he does have that might help him in this scheme. There will not be many times where he has to block just straight man-on-man like he did in 2012. I have said this plenty of times whether written or spoken, he did not have the power or the upper body strength to play inside and I still believe that to a point.
In studying this zone scheme the last three months, it's more about feet and body positioning and just not shear bulk and power.
Doug Free's best trait has always been his feet not his power. When you study Free's work in these practices and games, he really looks comfortable when he has to make a front side reach or the backside cut off. His job is to shield or run with his man and not blow them off the ball which is better suited for his game. When he does have to play with power in the running game, he is usually working with Bernadeau on a double team block to the second level.
In watching these guards play, where they have also benefited is from the awareness that Travis Frederick has played with in these first three games. Frederick has been strong enough to help with one hand allowing the guards to get in better position to secure the blocks all while keeping his eyes to the backside to help. There have been several situations this Summer where he has cleaned up a mess or two by just having a feel where he needs to be.
If there is a negative to the move, Free is on a bit of a roll at tackle. He appears to have regained his form from two seasons ago where he was the most stable linemen they had in the group. His technique and block positioning once again appears sound and you do not see his hands miss allowing defensive linemen into his chest. You see fewer mistakes or struggles from his game that you had in the past so is having him work at another position the right situation the right thing to do?
There will be those that argue just to leave him at tackle and let him go. I don't see this as a permanent position switch at all but more about not getting caught in the opening week of the season if something were to happen with Ronald Leary or Mackenzy Bernadeau.
Again, these are the times you try different combinations. Last season if you remember, they worked Bernadeau at center in practice, then later in the season, he made a good start against the Redskins. Without that work and knowledge, you put your squad in a terrible situation to potentially lose a game.
Jason Garrett has always talked about getting the best five ready to play but sometimes that best five has to make adjustments and this case they are preparing for that.