Inside The Dallas Cowboys


Taylor: Doug Free making Cowboys look smart for releasing Flozell Adams
Jean-Jacques Taylor

The Cowboys released Flozell Adams in the off-season because they believed in Doug Free.

The fourth-year veteran did nothing to disappoint in the Cowboys’ first preseason game of the season. Free, starting at left tackle, did a nice job run- and pass-blocking, especially against Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom, who had eight sacks in his first six games until an Achilles injury ended his season.

Now, some of you can relax.

There have been so many questions about Free’s ability to competently replace Adams. Maybe the Cowboys created some of those questions with the addition of Alex Barron in the off-season.

While there’s a big difference between the first preseason game and the regular-season opener against Washington, Free has shown every indication he can handle the job.

Free started seven games at right tackle last season, when Marc Colombo suffered a leg injury, and did such a good job the Cowboys decided they would put the younger, cheaper player at one of the offensive line’s most important positions.

The Cowboys like Free’s athleticism, especially in the running game. They think his agility and quickness will allow the Cowboys to pull and add another element to their running game.

As a pass blocker, Free has been excellent. He uses his long arms to keep defensive ends at bay, and when he has been beaten, he uses his balance and athleticism to recover quickly.

Free is competing with Barron, a former first-round pick, but he has a considerable edge.

Q: Again, are you out of your mind? If you were a head football coach, your team would come in last place every year until you were fired.

Marion Barber has proved he can do several things; he can go down with a one-arm tackle; he can’t beat anyone around the outside corner; he has never run for a 50-yard touchdown. He has no speed and name one team where he would start?

Mike, Yorba Linda, Ca.

TAYLOR: Let’s see, I think he could start for the Dallas Cowboys. I think he will start for the Dallas Cowboys.

You’re doing an awful lot of complaining for a guy with a career average of 4.3 yards and 43 touchdowns in five seasons. His average is even more impressive when you consider all of the goal line and short-yardage carries he’s had during his career.

He’s not a speed guy – he’s a banger – so who cares if he’s never had a 50-yard touchdown run? But he had three runs of 30 yards or more last season, and the comments about him being taken down by one arm are probably the most uniformed I’ve read in quite some time.

Anyone who follows the NFL knows Barber is one of the hardest runners to bring down in the league. Just for the record, of the backs taken in the 2005 draft, he ranks in the top five with Ronnie Brown (1st round), Cedric Benson (1st round), Frank Gore (3rd round), Darren Sproles (4th round) and Brandon Jacobs (4th round).

One more thing, Barber has outrushed all of those guys except Gore and Brown and has more touchdowns than all of them. Is he perfect? No. But he’s a good running back who’s an important part of the team.

Q: I think Marion Barber played hurt most of last year? As my daddy used to say, “He had a hitch in his get-along.” Thoughts?

Lynvol Arthur, Granbury

TAYLOR: Obviously, the quadriceps injury bothered him last season. Once he was hurt, he didn’t have the explosion that we saw early in the season. He lost about eight pounds in the off-season and that could make him a tad more elusive. More important, it should help him accelerate through holes a little quicker as well as help his endurance and stamina. Every little bit helps, especially as he gets older.

Q: Beware of the new beast rising in the East! The Shanahan Indians!

Petey Bluem

TAYLOR: I’ll pass. Mike Shanahan is a good coach, but the Redskins were 4-12 last season, and it’s going to take a minute for them to get right. It’ll be interesting to see how Clinton Portis does now that he has been reunited with Shanahan. If he can make Portis a dynamic runner again, then the Redskins might compete for a wild-card spot. Donovan McNabb is also an upgrade over Jason Campbell, but we all wonder how much he has left.

Q: Why are the Cowboys celebrating a 50th anniversary in their 51st season?

Mike Burke, Tucson

TAYLOR: If you ask the Cowboys, they would say they didn’t want the 50th anniversary to get lost in the shuffle of all the hoopla that accompanied the opening of the new stadium last year. If you ask me, they saw an opportunity to make some additional cash this year.

Last year, it was all about marketing the stadium. This year, they can market the faux anniversary with hats, jerseys, books, etc. Jerry has always been a marketing genius.

Q: Do the Cowboys feel playing five preseason games instead of four is an advantage or disadvantage?

Chris Lytle, Dallas

TAYLOR: Neither. It is what is. They have to play them, so there’s no need talking about whether it’s good or bad. That said, they’re putting a positive spin on it, saying it gives the young guys more opportunities for game experience, and that the extra week of training camp gives their young guys invaluable extra time to really grasp the offensive and defensive schemes.

The reality is that most players would be fine with only two preseason games. Every additional game is one more opportunity for someone to get hurt.

Q: Is this rash of injuries due to a tougher regimen by Wade Phillips, or simply a run of bad luck?

Rod Hardister, Red Oak

TAYLOR: Neither, really. Football is a physical, violent game. Injuries happen. Most of the time, it’s no one’s fault. Every team has one or two key injuries during a season. The best teams have good enough depth to overcome them.

Just for the record, I wouldn’t call it a rash of injuries just yet. It’s heading that way, but aside from John Phillips, none of them have been season-ending. I expect Dez Bryant and Marcus Spears to be ready for the season opener, so it hasn’t really been that bad.

Q: How good of a chance is there that Scott Sicko not only makes the team but plays a lot? I think his name just makes me want him to play more. Romo to Sicko, what a ring that has.

Benjamin Herman, Los Angeles

TAYLOR: For now, Sicko is just a guy. He was much better in the game than he had been in practice, but I wouldn’t say he’s guy you would be happy to see getting a lot of snaps in games right now. Of course, that could all change if he can get back on the field quickly and start getting additional practice repetitions because of the injury situation.

Then again, he suffered a concussion in Sunday’s game. There’s no telling how long he’s going to be out. It could be a few days or a couple of weeks. For a guy in his position, every day is critical.

Q: You know, as well as I do, that the true head coach of the Cowboys – Jerry Jones – will make the decision on whether Dez Bryant plays more than Roy Williams. It certainly won’t be the defensive coordinator who struts around the sideline and acts like a head coach.

Karlan Fairchild

TAYLOR: Why the venom for Wade? He did a good job last year. Besides, it will probably be Jason Garrett who determines when Dez surpasses Roy on the depth chart. Don’t you think Jason has the authority to do that? I do.

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