Cowboys Cut Rookie to Bring Back La’el Collins

Dak Prescott, La'el Collins

Getty Dak Prescott, La'el Collins

As they settle into their bye week, the Dallas Cowboys are ready to welcome back starting right tackle La’el Collins, who has officially completed his five-game NFL suspension.

But, first, the Cowboys had to crunch some quick math, making room on the active roster by releasing fullback Nick Ralston, the team announced Tuesday, October 19.

Ralston — an undrafted rookie who played one offensive snap across four appearances this season, contributing primarily on special teams (60 snaps) — is expected to re-join the practice squad if he clears waivers, the official team website reported.

As such, in a corresponding move, the Cowboys waived cornerback Isaiah Johnson from the practice squad.

“With the open spot on the 53-man roster now, it could open the door for La’el Collins, who has completed his five-game suspension. But the Cowboys still get a one-week roster exemption for Collins if they decide to put another player from IR to the roster this week,” the official team website reported.

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McCarthy Preps Collins Onboarding Plan

With no practices scheduled until after the bye, the Cowboys will have to wait a little longer to return Collins to the field and, eventually, the starting lineup. As it relates to their next scheduled game, Halloween Day against Minnesota, head coach Mike McCarthy expressed that it’s a wait-and-see process.

“La’el’s been here. He looks good, the workouts and so forth,” McCarthy said Tuesday, per the team website. “We’ll be excited to get him back into the full mix after the bye week. … He played on short reps coming out of camp. We just have to see where he is when we get on the field next Wednesday.”

Even without the seventh-year pro, Dallas’ offensive line has performed at a remarkably high level, keying the league’s top-ranked offense in total yards (460.8) and points (34.2) per game entering Week 7, per ESPN. The club also boasts the second-best rushing attack, led by Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, which averages 164.3 YPG.

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Philbin Pinpoints Steele’s Growth at RT

When Collins was on the shelf for much of last season, the result of hip surgery, his replacement … well, he wasn’t La’el Collins. Not remotely close. But that same replacement, second-year former undrafted free agent Terence Steele, once again forced into duty, has made a night-and-day jump as a sophomore, holding up well in pass protection while springing massive holes for Zeke and Co.

This drastic turnaround is due to several factors, including Steele opting to shed 10 pounds over the offseason and the ongoing tutelage of offensive line coach Joe Philbin, who’s taken a psychological approach with the Texas A&M product.

“I just think he’s more comfortable, more confident in what the job description is,” Philbin explained Tuesday, per the team website. “I think he’s more comfortable systematically with what we’re asking him to do. When you’re a rookie, especially when we didn’t have an offseason program in 2020, everything was maybe a brave new world for him and all the other rookies. I think he worked extremely hard in the offseason from a strength and conditioning standpoint.

“Just a lot of things, and you always hope there’s a natural progression from your first year to your second year, and I think that’s evident with him.”

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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