With starting right tackle La’el Collins suspended for the next five games, the Dallas Cowboys have named a new starter, but it is not the player many expected. During an interview on Dallas’ 105.3 the Fan, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones revealed that Terence Steele will start in place of Collins against the Chargers in Week 2.
“The plan is to go with Steele, and he’ll do a good job,” Jones explained. “He’s a young guy that we’re proud of, and he really had a great rookie year last year, relatively speaking. He’ll do a good job out there. We’ll give him lots of help.”
Martin Will Not Move to Right Tackle in Collins’ Absence
The good news is starting right guard Zack Martin is back on the active roster after missing the season opener. Martin was sidelined in Week 1 after testing positive for COVID-19. There was some speculation Martin could move to right tackle with Collins out, but Jones explained why the team is keeping the veteran at guard.
“I think we feel like that our offense really, I hate to be trite about it, but it’s just best served with him at right guard, and we’ve got a good alternative,” Jones said. “And he will be very helpful to the fact that Steele will basically be out there in the game, and he’ll be helpful to him. He will really help out that situation.
“Really, you’re reluctant, because when you make a move you’re talking about position flex in the offensive line, but when you make a move you’re dealing with two people at different positions rather than just one new one at the same position he’s been practicing. So, it’s a little more to it relative to what you’re giving up when you switch a guy out of a position into another one. That’s two position switches.”
Steele Was in the Top-10 for Most Sacks Allowed in 2020
The Cowboys signed Steele as an undrafted free agent in 2020 after a standout career at Texas Tech. Steele played in all 16 games in his rookie season including 14 starts for the Cowboys. The tackle received poor scores for his rookie season in Dallas.
Pro Football Focus gave Steele a 50.3 overall grade (out of 100) which included a 49.1 score for his pass blocking and 52.5 in the run game. Steele was among the league leaders in statistics that offensive linemen do not want to lead. The lineman gave up the second-most sacks at nine and was tied for 13th with six penalties in 2020.
This is partly why the news of Steele moving into the starting lineup was widely met with disbelief. ESPN’s Todd Archer wonders why Connor McGovern did not get the nod after his strong performance filling in for Martin in Week 1.
“Jones seemed to say the Cowboys didn’t want to make two moves for one, which is why Zack Martin is staying put,” Archer noted on Twitter. “Shouldn’t the question be is Connor McGovern better than Terence Steele if Martin showed he can move to RT?”
Steele Worked on Improving His Strength & Hand Usage This Offseason
If there is any reason for optimism, USA Today’s Jori Epstein points to offseason work as a reason for potential improvement in Steele’s game.
“Terence Steele set to start at RT for Cowboys vs Chargers,” Epstein tweeted. “Steele struggled as rookie last yr but started 14 games. Offseason work with OL coach @BigDuke50 [Duke Manyweather]. Focusing on? ‘He improved with strength, especially core,’ Duke tells me. ‘Consistency with his pass set and hand usage.'”
Blogging the Boys’ RJ Ochoa described the decision to start Steele over other options like Ty Nsekhe as “not wise.”
“There is certainly reason to believe/hope that Steele can turn into a fine NFL player over the course of his career,” Ochoa said on Twitter. “This is only his second season. But this decision feels… not wise.”