If you dominate the line of scrimmage you win ball games, it’s as simple as that. The Dallas Cowboys have adopted this philosophy on both sides of the ball in recent years. Their offensive line at one time was considered the top unit of it’s kind league-wide, and they’re currently in a position to reclaim that throne with all hands on deck for the most part to start the season. On the defensive side of the ball, they haven’t finished lower than 8th against the run in the last three seasons thanks to capable bodies on the defensive line. With a seemingly healthy Maliek Collins and an up and coming Antwaun Woods, the Cowboys have two young bulls ready to reach their potential.
Collins has only had one issue since he was drafted in the third round in 2016, and that’s simply staying healthy. A broken foot during the offseason program made his availability limited before the season, but fortunately, he didn’t miss any games and recorded 5 sacks. After playing through a foot strain in 2017, which didn’t cost him any games like the broken foot a year before, 2018 saw a few hiccups.
After fixing a stress ailment in his foot last January, he would break the same foot in May, while also suffering an MCL sprain in a week two win against the Giants. Surprisingly, it was the first time he missed action even with all of his setbacks as he was unavailable for three games. Now, he’s fully healthy and playing like it if you’ve watched him in the preseason in albeit limited action. His quick burst off the ball, fast hands, and utilizing spin and swim moves have Collins looking like the potential big game player he showed flashes of as a rookie.
Now entering a contract season, Collins has added motivation to be a force as not only will it make the Cowboys top 7 defense from a year ago better but it will increase the size of his next payday.
Woods has been the epitome of perseverance during his short time in the NFL. After going undrafted in 2016, he signed with the Tennessee Titans before being released in September but was signed to the practice squad a day later. He would make the active roster for one game in December and recorded three tackles.
He would again be released by the Titans in 2017 only to be brought back a day later to the practice squad but didn’t find his way onto the active roster. He signed a reserve/future contract in January of 2018 before being released after an injury settlement in May.
Finally, he would find himself under the bright lights of Dallas when he signed a two-year 1.05 million dollar deal last May and was named the starter at the 1-technique. He would have a solid year as a run stopper for the Cowboys fifth-ranked run defense. Why do I believe he’s primed for a big 2019?
For one thing, the guy lining up next to him, Maliek Collins. Having a guy that can be an anchor as the 3-technique makes life easier for him as the 1-technique. Collins drawing double teams can free up Woods for one-on-one battles with centers and guards (and vice verse). Second, he’s set to be an ERFA (Exclusive Rights Free Agent) in 2020. This is a player whose contract has expired and has three or fewer tenured years in the league. His original team must make a contract offer by the league-imposed deadline or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. You can bet he’ll be playing to secure the bag in 2019.
Two talented interior defensive linemen who have yet to reach their potential and are also seeking the first big contracts of their careers. With health on their sides, I can see both Collins and Woods making their names recognizable to football fans nationwide as opposed to just being local celebrities. Definitely two players to keep an eye on this season.