Though it's generally assumed that Doug Free will replace five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams in 2010, who was released abruptly a little over a month ago, the Cowboys refuse to merely hand the starting job over to him. The team insists that he will have to battle Alex Barron, who was acquired from St. Louis in exchange for Bobby Carpenter earlier this month, and starting right tackle Marc Colombo, on his way to his first full-time starting gig.
Hudson Houck, the Cowboys' revered offensive line coach, said in a recent report on ESPNDallas.com that, very simply, the best two of the three-man field will start. And it's a battle that he will be looking forward to watching throughout OTAs, training camp and the preseason.
"This is a great thing to watch," Houck said, per ESPNDallas.com. "This is fun. This is about competing. This is about team play. This is about seeing somebody step up to take a job. I'm really excited."
Free started the final seven games of the 2009 regular season at right tackle, as Marc Colombo went down with a knee / ankle injury in week 10 at Green Bay; a span that won Free some fans, not the least important of which was owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
Free will look to build on this success in 2010, but understands that starting jobs in the NFL must be earned, particularly when battling veterans like Colombo and Barron, the latter of which should have a newly whetted appetite, after five disappointing seasons in St. Louis.
"I definitely showed them that I can play," Free continued. "I think I did a pretty good job last year. People have said that. But are they going to give it to me? No. I'm definitely going to have to work and earn it.
"I don't care if they pencil you in as a starter. If you don't play well and you don't practice well, you ain't gonna start."