IN THE TRENCHES: Cowboys experimenting with Doug Free at right guard

IRVING, Texas — Dallas Cowboys starting right tackle Doug Free took some snaps at right guard in front of the media during Wednesday’s practice.
Free has never played guard in the NFL, college or high school and said the biggest challenges are “the proximity to them (defenders) and the angle to the quarterback.”

The Cowboys have a shortage of interior linemen in the late stages of training camp because of injuries to left guards Ronald Leary and Nate Livings. The team tried to sign two veteran offensive linemen and were rebuffed by Brandon Moore, who elected to retire, and Brian Waters, who didn’t accept the Cowboys’ contract offer.

There’s a chance Free will start at right guard in Saturday’s fourth preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday with Mackenzy Bernadeau getting snaps at left guard. The Cowboys are keeping Free on the right side so he can maintain a right-handed stance.

“It’s too early to tell,” Free said. “I don’t know anything.”

What the Cowboys do know is that Free can physically play the position despite a body type (6-6, 325 pounds) that is more suited for a tackle.

“This isn’t quite so, so new,” coach Jason Garrett said. “But there are differences. You play out in space more as a tackle. You play in a phone booth more as a guard. You might take more direct heat on you, guys bull rushing you more inside. So length is important to be able to keep those guys off of you. Sometimes you play against those (defensive tackles) that are up the field, length is important there. That feels a little bit playing like tackle.”

Of course, the Cowboys could also go back to Bernadeau as the starting right guard if and when Leary or Livings returns from minor knee surgeries.

“I thought Doug did a really good job moving inside,” center Travis Frederick said. “He’s such an intelligent player, been in the league for several years, just knows his way around, so it makes it pretty easy for him.

“Obviously there’s going to be a few things here and there, just the feel of how much help you’re going to get. The things I’ve talked about switching from center to guard, it’s the same from guard to tackle. You pretty much know what the guard is doing. In his case, he certainly does, and he knows what everybody is doing, so it makes it easier for him assignment-wise.”


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