Doug Free has firm grip on starting job

SAN ANTONIO – The fight to fill Flozell Adams’ shoes at left tackle hasn’t materialized.

Doug Free is the starter. Alex Barron is the backup for both tackle positions.

It’s not that Barron has been bad. The former Rams first-round pick, who has five seasons of starting experience, has looked like a better player in practice than the one the Cowboys watched on film.

But Free was phenomenal in the Alamodome, holding his own against DeMarcus Ware. Free took every left tackle rep with the first-team offense.

“Doug Free has had a great training camp, probably the best of our offensive linemen,” Wade Phillips said.

The Cowboys planned on giving Free the starting job when they ended Adams’ 12-year tenure by releasing the long-time left tackle. They acquired Barron in a trade for Bobby Carpenter for insurance and depth.

Free gained the confidence of the coaching staff and front office during his seven-game stint as a starter at right tackle after Marc Colombo was injured last season. They felt all along that his quickness and mobility made him a better fit at left tackle, where he played in college and worked at the most in practice during his first three pro seasons.

The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Free responded to the challenge of earning a starting job by bulking up about 10 pounds this offseason. The Cowboys are comfortable with him protecting Tony Romo’s blind side and excited about the ways his athletic ability can allow Jason Garrett to open up the playbook.

“Free is playing with a lot of confidence,” offensive line coach Hudson Houck said. “He’s doing everything right and working very hard. I’m very pleased with what he’s doing.”