Head coach Jason Garrett indicated that the Cowboys just may move Tyron Smith to the left tackle and Doug Free back to right tackle next season. SWITCH
After having a good year at right tackle in 2010, Free was signed to a big contract last year and moved to left tackle so that the rookie Smith could get acclimated to the NFL at right tackle. Last season was a tough year for Free as he allowed 10 sacks and 33 QB pressures. Pro Football Focus was so unimpressed that they ranked Free 51st among tackles.
Much of the attention is on pass protection but how about rushing the ball? Last season the Cowboys often just couldn’t seem to pick up a yard or two in short yardage situations and it was worst on the left side of the line. The Cowboys rushing power ranking for the left side was dead last in the NFL. That means in short yardage situations, the Cowboys left side had the lowest conversion percentage. The right side was better but not anything to brag about either as they were ranked 22nd in this category. Surprisingly, the center of the line was in the top 10 in short yardage conversions.
Clearly moving Free to left tackle hurt his productivity and I find it easy to believe that moving Free back to right tackle will improve his performance next year however the big question is how will Smith handle the more challenging left side? Smith is a young inexperienced tackle with a lot of skill but he has never played left tackle in the NFL where he will face defenses’ best pass rushers. He played right tackle at USC too.
Making the switch makes sense for the future as Smith was drafted to play left tackle ultimately however we must expect a learning curve with some growing pains next year if it happens. And pain is something Romo knows about. I would be curious to know how Romo feels about having such a young player protecting his blind side? Romo was hit as much as any QB in the league last year and I’m sure he would like to see protection improve.
Jason said that Free can play both sides but I beg to differ with Jason. The facts strongly indicate that Free is a right tackle so you better hope Smith is a left tackle because if he isn’t, then you have two right tackles and no left tackles. And that means you better have some depth at QB. You will need them.