One of the bigger questions we have heading into our quest for a sixth Lombardi Trophy is at one of the least heralded, yet most important positions on the gridiron. The quarterbacks blind spot is one of those positions that when a player is performing either at an acceptable to an excellent standard no one ever notices just how good of job they are doing. Alas, when said player is having more laundry thrown at them then the locker room towel boy or they are more jittery than a teenage boy on his first “non-parent” date everyone in the stadium and outside the stadium takes notice. In fact don’t be surprised to find out that some of the people sharing their opinions of how bad the player performed hasn’t even seen the game. Everyone becomes a critic at that point.
This off season though we were hoping to find a replacement for the “Hotel” either through the draft or even through free agency. Instead Father Jerry decided to see if we had the answer already on the roster. Granted there were some decent options in the draft but no one really at our draft selection that anyone would consider sexy. Time will tell whether or not Doug Free or the acquisition of Alex Barron will improve the situation any.
As far as Barron is concerned he is an option that might help us in possibly two or more spots. We traded away basically a player in Carpenter that had outlived his usefulness. He never really found his niche in Dallas after bouncing around all four linebacker positions in Parcell’s and Wade’s schemes. We have a handful of younger guys with some possibilities that basically made him very expendable. Barron needed a new place to hone his skills and Dallas not only gives him an opportunity to win the left tackle position but he can also have a chance at replacing Columbo on the right side as well. One important thing he will get is an above average offensive line guru in Hudson Houck. He has already proved he is pretty durable playing on a below average team in St Louis starting all but one game in the last four years. He has had less penalties over the last three years than Flozell has had by a margin of 8 to 13. That’s five less penalties a year averaging to almost a third less penalty than Flozell. As far as sacks go they are pretty much even six to five. He is younger and lets face it Flozell has lost a step and doesn’t have much left in front of him.
Free on the other hand looked great last year when replacing Columbo when he went down with injury he proved just how agile he was by running down field and throwing a block more than twenty yards down field. The part that worries me the most about him was when they put him in at left tackle in the Minnesota playoff game it all but sealed out demise. Columbo was a turnstile for Ray Edwards on one side and when Free came in Jared Allen was beating him like a rented mule. We were still in the game when Flozell went down but give up 20+ points without so much as a single point for your own to retaliate the effort can never give you hope to win a playoff game.
My thoughts going into the preseason are that Columbo is getting up there in age and frankly Free has already proven in my book that he can play that right tackle position well. Barron should be given every opportunity to win that left tackle position. If so with coaching like Houcks I think he will improve and be able to learn from not only one of the best coaches in the game but from the players around him. If he can stay steady with his stats its an improvement over last year but if he improves on those stats everyone will be saying … Flozell who?
Granted telling fans of opposing teams that your replacement at one of the most important positions on the field with words like Free and Barron might get a few chuckles out of them. That is of course until one or both of them are holding their teams top rusher in check for the entire game. On the other hand if neither pan out we could not only be kissing our chances of playing in a Super Bowl we host goodbye but we could also be checking out the left tackles coming out college come November, along with what coaches might be available to replace Wade as Jerry starts to clean house towards trying to rebuild.