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Doug Free Film Review: “Done Or Finished?”

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Headlines - Is 2016 Doug Free's Last Year in Dallas? 2

The Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive line in football.

How many times have we heard that phrase over the past two years? A lot, I know. While it seems repetitive to point it out at times, it is important to do so for the simple fact that it is true.

Three All-Pros, three first round picks, and five guys who have a serious shot at making the Pro Bowl each and every year. The oldest member of this group, however, might be becoming a problem.

The forgotten man of this offensive line, veteran right tackle Doug Free, is often criticized by fans who are sometimes very wrong in their criticism. These past two weeks, those criticisms have been as loud as ever, but they very well may finally be correct.

Free struggled mightily against the New York Giants, getting beat by Jason Pierre-Paul on multiple occasions. I expected an improvement at Washington, and while he did play better, it was nowhere near where we would hope for him to be.

Run Blocking


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In the run game, Free struggled to keep his feet on a multitude of plays. This lack of balance came back to haunt both him and the Cowboys, as often the player he whiffed on went on to either make or impact the play.

Here we see Doug Free try to execute a "pin and pull" technique with the tight end. Jason Witten gets pushed into the backfield, but he does seal his man just enough to avoid total failure. Free tries to pull for the cornerback to seal the outside, but fails to do so as he loses his feet and ends up on the ground.

The cardinal sin of o-line play is to lose your feet. You have to do your best to stay up at all times, and avoid whiffing like this.


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Problems on the backside double between Tyron Smith and La'el Collins hurt the play, but it is Doug Free's miss which may have ultimately doomed it. Free takes a decent zone step off the ball, keeping his shoulders square and staying relatively low. He lets his upper body get too far over his knees, however, making it very easy for the defensive end to use his momentum against him, and make the play.

As an offensive linemen, you cannot allow yourself to lean like this, or else you will end up on your face.

Pass Blocking


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Doug Free got beat a few times in pass protection this week, losing with similar problems just about every time. First, he allows the defensive lineman to get into his chest and control him. Free is not able to deliver a punch and create any separation from the defensive end off the ball. This allows the defensive end to bull rush Free into the quarterback, before shedding Free and coming up with the sack.


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Washington tries a twist with their 3-technique and defensive end here, and they are successful in creating pressure with it. Zack Martin does a nice job of passing the defensive tackle off to Free, powering down and controlling the stunting end.

Free, however, loses his base and allows himself to get bull rushed once again. Dak Prescott avoids the sack here, but the fact that Free was beat remains the same regardless of the final outcome.


I've been pretty negative on Free throughout most of this article, but the fact of the matter is that Free did improve his play from week 1 to week 2.


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Unlike the last play where the twist beat Free, he and Martin do an excellent job of passing off the down lineman, switching, and making the block. Free's footwork is excellent here, as is his punch as he stays strong with his inside arm and doesn't allow the defender to get into his chest and bull rush him.


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This was my favorite Doug Free play from the entire game. He kicks back with ease, keeping himself square while still moving quick enough to meet the wide-aligned defender before it was too late.

Dak's run came back due to a hold on Travis Frederick, but Free did an excellent job in pass protection on this play.

While it wasn't pretty at times, Doug Free's play did improve from week to week. This Sunday night, the Cowboys face the Chicago Bears, a team with by far the worst pass rush of the three they have seen so far. Free needs to have his best game yet, or else the criticisms will only get louder.

Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

  • Joe Riojas

    I wonder if they’d consider moving Collins or Ron Leary if he continues to struggle?

    • Kevin Brady

      I’ve been floating this idea around myself as well. I like the idea of Collins at RT and Leary at LG, think it gives you the best five on the field. Tough to move Collins at this point, however.

Player News

BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year

Mauricio Rodriguez



David Irving

For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.

Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.

In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.

Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.

The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.

Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.

Tell me what you think about "BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Player News

Jason Witten’s Lasting Message to Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

Sean Martin



Cowboys 2016 Draft Class: Who Will Be The Stand Out In 2017?
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

When Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Witten retired from the NFL last month, he left behind an unproven group of tight ends for the Cowboys to field as Witten moves on to the Monday Night Football broadcast booth. This is not a TE group short of potential, although that's nothing new for the laundry list of players that have failed at the position behind the Hall of Fame bound Witten.

Headlining this group of potential heirs to Witten has to be 2016 draft pick Rico Gathers. Not yet given the same opportunities that Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin are receiving through the Cowboys ongoing mini camp, Gathers has been criticized for his commitment to his team.

Looking to make the transition from the basketball court at Baylor to the football field, Gathers' journey began at Witten's soon-to-be home forever. Playing his first organized football game since middle school, Gathers and Witten were teammates in the Hall of Fame game at Canton, Ohio in 2017.

A game rarely leaving fans with a lasting memories, Gathers immediately flashed potential in the passing game, hauling in three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. Gathers would go on to spend the season on IR after a concussion suffered in practice, recovering from it in time to return but never seeing the field.

This leaves Gathers' prospects of putting it all together in year three at a difficult crossroads. It will be hard to question Gathers' commitment moving forward, as the message from his former teammate Jason Witten still lives with him.

Jason Witten's Lasting Message to Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

If Witten truly sees a "bright future" for Rico Gathers, who Head Coach Jason Garrett says needs work in the running game, there is no reason the Cowboys can't find a role for him this season. With an entirely unproven group of wide receivers, Gathers could be the reliable mismatch for Dak Prescott to target in the middle of the field.

Prescott was the ninth worst quarterback in the league last season in red zone completion percentage, surely something the 6'6" TE Gathers could help improve.

Gathers may be a long way off from becoming Prescott's version of Witten to Tony Romo, but there is still hope for the 2016 draft pick, according to now football analyst Jason Witten.

Tell us what you think about "Jason Witten’s Lasting Message to Cowboys TE Rico Gathers" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Player News

David Irving to be Present at Dallas Cowboys Minicamp

John Williams



Cowboys en Español: El Futuro Incierto de David Irving

David Irving has been a notable name throughout the offseason for the Dallas Cowboys, for both on the field and off the field headlines. First, his RFA tender had fans and analysts wondering just what the Cowboys would do with him. Many, myself included, thought placing anything lower than a first-round tender on the stud defensive tackle would mean he was collecting sacks for someone else in 2018.

Thankfully, the Dallas Cowboys' gamble paid off and they were able to save some money by only having the second-round tender applied to 2018.

Then came the accusation of domestic violence from his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, catching us off-guard just before OTAs began in May. Which was then retracted not long after the initial report.

After all of that had quieted down, most of the talk revolved around David Irving not being in shape for OTAs. Not having been around for much of the offseason work the last several weeks before OTAs would keep Irving from working out.

He's had a lot going on in his life lately away from the game of football, and understandably so. As a father to a young child, I can see how you'd get distracted from your job when family stuff comes into play that affects the well-being of your child.

On the football side of things, at least, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Today, it's being reported that David Irving will in fact be present for this week's mandatory minicamp.

Brandon George on Twitter

Also, the Cowboys expect DL David Irving to participate in the 3-day mandatory minicamp that begins today at The Star, a source said. The Cowboys could have both Irving and RG Zack Martin back on the practice field if Martin's contract extension gets finalized this morning.

You may be asking yourself, "what's the big deal? Irving isn't Aaron Donald."

Well, you're mostly right.

Perhaps next to Donald, David Irving was the most disruptive interior player in the NFL last season. David Irving had seven sacks in the eight games he played in.

Read that again. Seven sacks in eight games. That would be 14 sacks over the course of the season if that pace were to continue to play out.

Aaron Donald had 11 sacks in 2017.

Pro Football Focus rated David Irving as its third best pass rusher among interior defensive linemen.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Dominant interior defenders.

To go along with Irving's seven sacks in eight games -- every time I read that I'm floored -- he recorded six passes defended. That was good for second in the NFL at the defensive tackle position and was second on the Dallas Cowboys.

Again, in only eight games played.

Even if you were to pace out his tackle numbers over 16 games, they aren't very spectacular -- 26 solo and 18 assisted -- but he'd still finish in the top 30 among defensive tackles.

Only two other players in the NFL had seven or more sacks and six or more pass breakups; New Orleans Saints Defensive End Cameron Jordan and Cincinnati Bengals Defensive End Carlos Dunlap. Both of those guys played in all 16 games and, while I hate to keep bringing this up, Irving only played in eight.

He's an elite interior defender who has only gotten better since joining Rod Marinelli and the Dallas Cowboys.

If he's able to get his personal life in order -- and that most assuredly comes first -- he's going to be a wrecking ball for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line.

Getting Zack Martin's contract extension completed was probably the most important task of the summer, but getting David Irving back into the practice fold is a close second.

With him and DeMarcus Lawrence coming off a tremendous 2017, the sky is the limit for those two in 2018.

With all the improvement that was made on the defensive side of the ball, I can't help but think of the sign that Greg Hardy paid for several years ago.

"Sacks Comin'."

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