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Mailbag: What Caused Free's Decline In Play Recently?


How do you explain Doug Free's rapid decline in play considering he should be in the prime of his career, along with being relatively injury-free?

Bryan:  I am not a coach but the ones that I have talked to about this subject feel that once his technique started to go down, then his level of play did as well. He has never been the strongest player despite his weight but there were ways that he could use his hands and feet to get him out of jams but when those two areas stopped working together, then he had big problems. When he misses with his punch and the defender gets inside of him, he is dead and he is going to be taken for a ride to Romo. Rushers figured out the way to beat him was not off the edge but just straight rush him down the middle and he has trouble sitting down on those types of rushers and for him that is a problem. He just doesn't play with much upper or lower body power.

Nick: Well, for starters, I'm not sure everyone in this building would categorize it as "rapid decline" but I think it's safe to say he struggled more the last two years. I think it's a combination of opponents figuring out his game and how to beat him, along with high expectations that comes with the money. If you're paying someone about $8-9 million per season to get a job done, he simply needs to play better, bottom line. So when Free allows a couple of sacks in one game, he will be scrutinized considering how much he is making. I think Free is a solid player for the most part, but that doesn't warrant that kind of cash.

Hey guys, would you be comfortable with Mackenzy Bernadeau moving to center if the guard position is fortified in the offseason?

Bryan:After what I have seen with the guards in this draft, the quickest way to help this line is move Bernadeau inside to center and draft one for his spot. I have said this before and I will say it again, you give Romo the [embedded_ad] opportunity to step up in the pocket he has a chance to make a play because he can handle the rush off the edge. It's when the middle of the pocket breaks down that he struggles the most. I believe that Bernadeau can make this transition because I have seen him do it with my own eyes and he wasn't poor at it.

Nick: I think that scenario would be beneficial if there are better options at guard. But there's no guarantee Bernadeau would be better at center than Costa. There's a good chance he won't be. Jerry Jones had interesting comments last week about Costa, stating the guards need to be solidified in order to play Costa. So if Bernadeau fits that group, the Cowboys are certainly hoping for better play out of both starters this season.

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