IRVING, Texas –Blame it on Sandra Bullock.
The modern day conventional wisdom, promoted in the Oscar-nominated movie "The Blind Side," is that left tackle is the marquee position on the offensive line and far and away the most difficult of the front five spots. In general, it may be true, but there are exceptions, depending on the opponent, and the New York Giants pass rush is certainly exceptional.
In Wednesday's season opener, one Cowboys lineman won't be able to stop New York's incredible edge-rushing depth, which includes Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and, when they want to, Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Boley and Dave Tollefson.
"That's a big part of their philosophy, to have those guys, allocate their resources, drafting guys, signing guys," Garrett said. "They all look long and big and they can rush up the field and also defend the run. I keep saying this, but they've got a lot of them. It's not just one guy. They've got a number of them who start for them, and they rotate other guys in."
For the Cowboys, who allowed six sacks of Tony Romo in the New Year's Day game against the Giants that decided the NFC East, and let in Boley to break the quarterback's collarbone the year before, stopping free runners at the point of attack is crucial. With pass protection in mind, the club moved 2011 first-round pick Tyron Smith to left tackle this offseason, and slid two-year incumbent Doug Free to the right side, where he first broke in as a starter in 2009, replacing an injured Marc Colombo.
It's hard to imagine either playing perfectly against a pass rush as good as New York's. A simple position flip may not be such a cure all. Both tackles have to be better than they were last year, regardless of their side. If the Giants sense a weakness on one side or the other, they'll try to exploit it.
"They're going to rush the same guys on the right as they do the left, I think," Free said. "It's not a right or left side game anymore, as much as it was maybe five years ago or so. They're putting rushers all other the field, even inside, like they're going to do this weekend. There's going to be good rushers everywhere. Nobody's got a cupcake job."
Luckily for the Cowboys' tackles, the transition was made early in the offseason, back in February, soon after Bill Callahan was hired as offensive line coach. While one job may not be much, if any easier than the other, at least Smith and Free have had plenty of time to get used to their new positions. For Free, it's about picking up on old techniques, but for Smith, who played right tackle in college, the move provides a little more of a challenge.
It wasn't perfect in the preseason, but Free believes a lot of progress has been made over the last five weeks since training camp began.
"Quite a bit," Free said. "It's just a matter of getting the kick down. Run blocking is pretty much the same. It's just mainly the protection. We've been doing a lot of work with it. Coach Callahan's been working with us real hard. He's got some different techniques and different fundamentals that he teaches, so it's been going real well."
For both tackles, the ultimate test will come Wednesday.