With Jermey Parnell sidelined with a hamstring injury, Doug Free has taken advantage of his additional work at right tackle.
"He continues to work very hard," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He is a very smart football player. He is a good leader for the group up front. He communicates well. He has some technical things that he is always working on to play stronger, but the commitment he has made to work with [offensive line coaches] Frank Pollack and Bill Callahan, I think those guys have helped him. It's a work in progress to always work on your weaknesses as a player, but he has a lot of strengths too. He has had a good start to camp so far."
Free had a rough season in 2012, allowing seven sacks, and making 13 penalties, including five holds, despite being paid $6 million. After playing every snap the first 12 games, Free gave up some of his plays to Parnell in the final four games. Free played 179 snaps in the final four games, with Parnell getting 84.
During the off-season, Free agreed to cut his pay in half from $7 million to $3.5 million. He had been expected to have to compete with Parnell for the starting right tackle job, but with Parnell standing and watching, the job appears to be Free's.
"Unfortunately for him, he missed a lot of time in the spring," Garrett said of Parnell. "He did such a good job coming into some games last year, and he really stepped up and emerged a little bit as a player. It was going to be healthy competition over there. There is going to be a healthy competition regardless. He is going to be able to show what he can do and how he fits into this offensive line.
"Unfortunately for a young player to miss this time, though, to miss in the spring and also the start of camp, it's a critical time for him. We've just got to get him back as quickly as possible."
Garrett said Parnell could be out another two weeks.
-- Charean Williams