To the casual observer, it might look like a bunch of 300-pound behemoths randomly mauling the guys across the line from them, but an effective offensive line is, in fact, a finely tuned, well-choreographed unit that requires knowledge of blocking schemes and opponents, a level of chemistry that allows blockers to work with each other with a minimum of unplanned collisions and an extraordinarily high level of communication.
So when right tackle Marc Colombo went down for the season two weeks ago in the Cowboys' loss to Green Bay, third-year backup Doug Free got thrown into the mix, instantly becoming the youngest and most inexperienced member of the Cowboys' veteran line.
The man lined up on Free's left hip was impressed by his young teammate's ability to take over in the middle of a game against the Packers, and also praised Free's performance against the Washington Redskins.
"I thought he did a good job," right guard Leonard Davis said. "We communicated a lot – more than I normally do with (Colombo). That was the biggest difference, how much we talked before plays. We were communicating more than we normally would, but it was all good, because Doug stepped in and did a good job."
Davis said that he and Free worked together extensively for the first time when Free began working with the first-team offensive line as Dallas prepared for Sunday's game with Washington. Davis said that starters rarely work with backups, saying that "99 percent of the time," the starters all work together, the second-team line works together … all in an effort to build that cohesion that is so necessary on the field.
Davis said the biggest thing he and Free will continue to work on as the Cowboys prepare for Thursday's game against the Oakland Raiders is the communication needed to form a solid line in front of quarterback Tony Romo and the Dallas running backs.
"It's just subtleties … like Flo (left tackle Flozell Adams) and (left guard) Kyle (Kosier) might block a play a certain way, but me and Colombo might block it different," Davis said. "So when Doug came in, we'd talk about (things like), ‘on this certain play, look for this, or remember to do it this way.'
"But Doug's a good player — he'll be fine. He has the talent to play. He has to get used to playing next to me, and playing with the first-team line, but that got a lot better between Green Bay and Washington, and it will get better again before Thursday."
EXCLUSIVE: Davis Free With Praise
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