La’el Collins returns from a five-game suspension as a backup for the Dallas Cowboys. Unless he doesn’t.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed Wednesday that Collins will open the practice week behind fill-in RT Terence Steele on the depth chart, noting Steele’s play and his desire to keep the “best five” on the field.
“You’ve clearly got to recognize how well Terence has played,” McCarthy told assembled media at The Star, per SI.com.
McCarthy also announced that Collins, with his position flexibility, will work at guard ahead of Sunday night’s road affair at Minnesota, the team’s first action following its bye. Which several reporters took to mean that incumbent left guard Connor Williams is now on borrowed time.
“Just talking out loud here but I think Connor Williams was put on notice today,” tweeted Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News.
“It’s no longer about La’el Collins taking the RT job back from Terrence Steele, it’s about Collins replacing Connor Williams at LG,” tweeted Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“No indication of what that means for Sunday. Definitely interesting, though,” tweeted David Helman of the official Cowboys website.
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Collins Taking Potential Switch Like a ‘Pro’
A career 62-game starter primarily at tackle, Collins has not kicked inside to guard since 2016. The 6-foot-4, 320-pound blocker is an excellent bookend to LT Tyron Smith when healthy and eligible to play, which has been a rarity in recent seasons.
Collins, according to McCarthy, is moving around “well” and “looks good” after his extended absence. It sounds as if he’s willing to get in where he fits in, whether backing up Steele or outright replacing Williams.
“He’s a pro. He’s just anxious to get back out there,” McCarthy said of Collins, per The Athletic’s Jon Machota.
Contrary to popular opinion, Williams is not the weakest link on Dallas’ star-studded offensive line, which has paved the way for Dak Prescott’s MVP candidacy and Ezekiel Elliott’s rushing resurgence. That link, says Pro Football Focus’ analytics? Center Tyler Biadasz.
“Even without La’el Collins, Dallas’ offensive line has vastly improved thanks in no small part to Tyron Smith returning to his best play now that he is finally healthy,” PFF’s Sam Monson wrote on October 13. “Smith boasts a 91.2 overall PFF grade, the second-best mark in the NFL. It’s the first time he has been above 90.0 since the 2015 season. Smith and Zack Martin are two of the best offensive linemen at any position in the league, and the rest of the Cowboys’ group has been solid with no real glaring weaknesses. With the unit being protected by the scheme, playcalling, quarterback and running backs, this is the best offensive line in football right now.”
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Week 8 QB Practice Plan
Nursing a right calf strain sustained in the Cowboys’ pre-bye victory at New England, Prescott is expected to practice — if only on a limited basis — and start Sunday’s tilt against the Vikings. The $160 million signal-caller, for what it’s worth, assured reporters Monday that “I’m fine” while he completes his rehabilitation process.
But just in case he isn’t, or Prescott suffers an unforeseen setback, the team is adopting the proper precautions. McCarthy revealed No. 2 QB Cooper Rush will receive additional reps with the first-string offense. To repeat: Just. In. Case.
“I think it’s a matter of trying to make sure Cooper’s ready and make sure Dak is getting what he needs,” McCarthy said Wednesday, per the official team website. “Until Dak clears the threshold of the rehab component with (associate athletic trainer/director of rehabilitation) Britt (Brown), we won’t make that determination on going full go until we get to that point. With that, we’ve got to make sure we get Cooper ready.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL