Commentary

Newton gives Free advice on left tackle

Updated: May 6, 2010, 1:05 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

Old School 101 is a three-part series featuring former Dallas Cowboys greats tackling key problem areas with the current team. Nate Newton takes part in the second installment:

Nate Newton played 14 years in the NFL, 13 with the Cowboys. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and twice a first-team All-Pro. Newton started in 180 of a possible 198 games during his career. He won two Super Bowls with the Cowboys in the 1990s and is one of the most beloved figures among fans.

Newton played left guard and right tackle during his career, so he knows something about playing the offensive line. He talked about what offensive line coach Hudson Houck will teach Doug Free in his transformation from a right tackle to a left tackle, replacing Flozell Adams. Houck was Newton's line coach from 1993-1998.

What challenges does Doug Free have moving from right tackle to left tackle?

Newton: I think it will be more mental than physical. ... You will always have to make adjustments. The first thing I want to see is recovery. What will he do once his feet get out of place? Does he have the ability to sink his hips? Will he use his 36-inch long arms?

He's not as strong as Flozell. Flozell could lock up with you, and that was end of story. He's not as strong as Flozell, but he's much more athletic than Flozell. He's got to use his athletic strengths when he's developing his technique. You have to be soft in the point where you know when a guy is tapping your hands versus giving a hard jam when you know a guy is gonna hard bull rush you.

Doug Free
Kyle Terada/US PresswireDoug Free's adjustment from right tackle to left tackle for the Cowboys will be more mental than physical, according to Nate Newton.

So, the anticipation is going to have to be greater -- film study. I'm not saying right tackles don't study a lot of film, but you have to be on target at left tackle as far as watching a guy and what he does on down and distance, what's his first move, what's his second move, what is he likely to see in you. You have to do a lot of self scouting, "What I'm I doing wrong?" With Hudson Houck, that's what he's going to be getting every week: "This is what you're doing wrong. This is what the last guy saw. This is what you've been successful with in the last four games and this is what you have to fix."

DeMarcus Ware and Tony Romo have expressed disappointment that Flozell is gone, yet are confident in Free. Is that fair for guys to say that?

Newton: That's your teammate, Watkins, that's your teammate. He's been an integral part of having this organization get back to where they needed to be. You dealt with Flozell's offsides here and maybe a wild penalty there because 80 to 90 percent of the time you know Tony Romo is going to be upright.

But everybody knows when you go to left tackle, it says, "I'm the best offensive lineman on this team, next to the center. I'm the most athletic, the most gifted as far as feet and hands." In two years, say he pans out and his contract comes up. Jerry is not just going to pat him on the back and say we gave you a start. That kid is going to want to get paid left tackle money, and that's $5 million to $6 million a year.

Is the left tackle position overrated? You look at the New Orleans Saints' left tackle, Jonathan Stinchcomb, he was somebody you didn't hear of. Do we overrate that position? I mean, it is the blind side of the quarterback you are protecting.

Newton: Yeah, it's overrated, until your quarterback's left back third rib is cracked. Until your quarterback starts tapping his feet and can't go through his seven-step read when he knows he has two reads he has to make and he can only get through one of those reads and he has to get rid of the ball.

It's all right to have a run-of-the-mill type quarterback and an average tackle. But you don't want an average left tackle with the way Tony is building his credibility up. You want a guy who used to tap his feet and run at the drop of [a] hat? Now that he's learned to drop back, move around the pocket, you want him to revert back to what he was? You don't want that.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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