When the Cowboys head into the desert to take on the Arizona Cardinals this Saturday, it will be our first chance at a somewhat-extended look of the Cowboys’ first teams. Here are three players I’ll be watching on offense.
RT Doug Free
Free was unimaginably bad in 2012. He allowed pressure on 6.2 percent of his snaps in pass protection, committed 13 penalties, and Cowboys running backs averaged only 2.58 YPC with him at the point-of-attack. If you remove DeMarco Murray’s 48-yard run in Week 1 on which Free didn’t do much of anything, the average drops to 1.99 YPC.
However, reports indicate that Free is playing really well in camp. He looked fine last week against the Raiders, and due to a lack of competition, he appears poised to hang onto the starting job. Let’s see if Free can maintain any sort of consistency against the Cardinals on Saturday.
TE Gavin Escobar
Prior to the 2013 NFL Draft, I wrote this in my Escobar scouting report:
The problem is that Escobar doesn’t offer much in the running game. He’s not particularly stout at the point and he needs to add strength. Escobar isn’t an unwilling blocker, but he fails to sustain blocks for the period of time he’d need to in the NFL. He tends to reach out at defenders instead of engaging and driving through them. He’s a hybrid player who can cause mismatches in the passing game, but he needs to work on his blocking so that he can take advantage of defense’s heavy personnel.
Well, that’s still the problem. Escobar can’t get on the field because he is getting lit up in the running game. I watched all of his preseason snaps, and he’s probably playing the worst football of anyone on offense. I still think Escobar and his long frame will help the Cowboys in the red zone, but at this point it doesn’t look like he’s going to be getting many regular season reps.
RB Joseph Randle
I haven’t really hid the fact that I think Randle is going to have a difficult time excelling in the NFL. The two biggest predictors of running back success are weight and straight-line speed. At 204 pounds with 4.63 speed, Randle is just not an elite athlete. He can catch the ball and potentially help out as a return man, but I don’t think he’ll ever grab a starting job. Randle is averaging a pedestrian 4.1 YPC through 21 preseason carries.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.