Cowboys Feel Free

The Cowboys underscored the need to shore up the offensive line Sunday when they chose their second offensive tackle of the weekend in Doug Free (6'6-1/4", 324, 5.22) of Northern Illinois.

OL Doug Free Profile

The selection of Free gives the team more versatility than the earlier choice of Boston College's James Marten, who projects strictly as a tackle.

Free, in the eyes of some scouts, could slide inside to guard, if needed – an attribute the Cowboys need as they seek a potential upgrade over Kyle Kosier and a contingency plan if Marco Rivera retires because age and health issues (although he has said he plans to return this year). With Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo entrenched as the starting tackles, and Leonard Davis likely to take over at one of the guard spots, adding the bulky, versatile Free makes the offensive line an area of great depth and versatility.

A four-year starter at Northern Illinois, Free earned all-MAC honors after his sophomore, junior and senior years. He will start out at tackle, where his frame and long arms help him excel in pass blocking.

Free also has excellent speed and footwork for a guy his size, and can get out to pull on sweeps, leading to the speculation that he could develop into a solid NFL guard. He has excellent quickness, balance and flexibility. He's also a very smart, tough player who scraps on every play and can recover on the rare occasions when he gets beaten by a defender.

Free started all 48 games at Northern Illinois, including 46 at left tackle. As a senior, he had 69 "pancake" blocks, including 10 "flat backs" – a statistic the NIU coaches keep that indicate when a blocker hits his defender so hard the defender's shoulders and/or head are the first part of his body to hit the ground when getting run over.

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