About the Author
Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki
ORT Doug Free, #68
Height: 6-6¼ Weight: 326 Speed: 5.21
Notes: Was selected in the fourth round in the 2007 NFL draft out of Northern Illinois after morphing from a lightly recruited 240-pound tight end into a four-year starting left tackle who consistently graded out above 90 percent. Only saw action in one game as a rookie and did not see action in 2008 because of a back injury. Replaced Marc Colombo, who suffered a broken fibula, in the starting lineup for the final seven games at right tackle in ’09. Following the release of Flozell Adams, took over at left tackle in ’10, where he started all 16 games and signed a four-year, $32 million extension the following July. Started all 16 games at left tackle again in ’11 opposite rookie ORT Tyron Smith. Swapped sides in ’12 and has started every game at right tackle.
Positives: Has excellent size with long levers, big hands and good grip strength to latch on to defenders aligned over the top of him. Good straight-line power — locks on and drives defenders off the ball in the run game. Highly competitive and plays with good effort and energy — scraps and battles. Solid anchor strength. Understands positioning and is very quick working up to the second level and attacking linebackers. Hardworking and passionate about the game. Has good work habits and is a respected, vocal line leader.
Negatives: Lacks ideal lateral agility to cut off the wide rush against speed rushers and is easily pulled offside (six false starts in six games) anticipating outside pressure. Has a tendency to overset, be forced to open his shoulders and give up the inside. Is a bit thin-pinned and top-heavy. Plays with marginal knee bend, negating his lower-body power, and struggles to adjust to movement and seal off second-level defenders. Needs to do a better job finishing blocks, especially in pass protection, where he is heavily stressed by speed.
Summary: An aggressive road-grader who's best when he can lock horns with defenders in the run game. Free lacks ideal foot quickness and athletic ability for the left side and is better suited matching up against power on the right side of the line, where he has settled this year after swapping spots with second-year OT Tyron Smith. Has all the intangible traits desired in a blue-collar position — toughness, intelligence and outstanding work habits. However, his pass-pro limitations leave Tony Romo vulnerable to front-side pressure.