With the rash of injuries and issues the Dallas Cowboys have had along the offensive line this summer, they have started to get creative.
After Brandon Moore decided to retire rather than join the team at Valley Ranch, the Cowboys stopped, at least for now, all communication with free agent Brian Waters on a possible contract, and now following injuries to guards Nate Livings and Ronald Leary, they have decided to try their hand at converting one of their own linemen to help fill the void at the guard position.
This week, right tackle Doug Free has slid inside to the guard position, with Jermey Parnell getting first team reps at Free’s regular position.
We know the Cowboys are desperate for line help — and they’ll try anything and everything — but sliding Free inside just isn’t a good move.
Free, 29, has regressed over the last few seasons since a breakout season in 2010 that saw him earn a $32 million contract the following summer. He has enough pressure trying to prove to both himself and the team that he can get back to being an effective starting tackle in the NFL, so moving him inside and having to learn a completely new position is the last thing the team needs.
We also have to consider Free’s size and body type. He is 325 pounds, which is ideal for a guard, but he stands at 6-foot-6, which is more common with offensive tackles. Guards should be quick, agile, more stocky than tall and more powerful.
Free is not all of that.
He has long arms, again more common in tackles, doesn’t have a particularly strong base and isn’t the fastest moving tackle. He also has trouble in pass protection with a tendency to have too high of a pad level, something that stronger defensive tackles — with a good 30 pounds on a defensive end in some cases — would exploit. Watch tape of Free, and you’ll notice that he also has a lot of trouble on reach blocks — when he has to take the man that is lined up to the left or right of him and not head up.
At the guard position, reach blocking, trapping and pulling are the norm. Free already plays standing tall, so when he has to pull, he would be higher up than guards would, which would make him lose power and quickness. Speedy defensive ends like the New York Giants‘ Jason Pierre Paul would be able to shed his block quite easily, and quick and powerful 3-4 outside linebackers like the Washington Redskins‘ Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan would be able to overpower him.
Not to mention, having Parnell, a career backup, play on the first team in a division that is ripe with talented pass rushers isn’t a good idea either.
The Cowboys should be looking at any and all options to give them help on the interior. Just not this one.
Jake Carapella is a Dallas Cowboys writer for RantSports. Follow him on twitter @JKCSports1.