IRVING, Texas – Yes, Doug Free has switched positions again this season. And yes, he's got a new right guard next to him. And yes, with a new center in the mix, it has led to a few communication problems throughout the line.
Free can acknowledge all of that, but to him, he's focused on one other important fact about his game:
"It needs improvement, definitely," Free said Wednesday. "I haven't pass protected well enough. I don't think I've done a good enough job and we've got to get it fixed. I have to fix it. I have to take the good coaching and keep working the techniques that I have been taught and really focus on it."
And it's not just the blocking, but the penalties as well.
Free's six penalties lead the Cowboys individually, including four false starts, which is second in the NFL only behind teammate Tyron Smith, who has five.
Asked if the addition of Ryan Cook and a different cadence has altered anything up front, Free dismissed the notion and put the blame on the outside tackles.
"It's mainly on me and Ty; we've just got to focus more," Free said. "I think the distance from the center could contribute to some of that, but I'm not going to blame it on all that. … We have to focus better and really stay focused on what the count is and just have our stuff ready and right for the next game."
While Smith is learning a new position on the left side, a spot he didn't even play in college at USC, Free was the swing tackle before he was named a starter. He's used to the right side and even backed up Marc Colombo for half the season in 2009 before getting switched to left tackle in 2010 to replace Flozell Adams. Free had a stellar first season on the left side, which led to a big payday before last season that gave him a contract in the $8 million per season range.
But he struggled some last year to the point the Cowboys decided to flip the tackles this offseason.
"It's been a little bit of a challenge, but it's nothing that I can't handle," Free said. "It's nothing that won't get taken care of."