Moving positions on the offensive line isn't easy. Even a change from left guard to right guard can be a headache for most players, so imagine how tough the adjustment from left guard to right tackle must be.
Switching your stance, footwork, and playing style can be challenging for an offensive lineman, and in the case of La'el Collins there certainly have been some growing pains.
Saturday night's battle with All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack was built up as Collins' first real test. An entire half against one of the best edge rushers the league has to offer. After the game, many were disappointed in Collins' performance, mostly due to him being flagged on three occasions.
After reviewing the film, however, I believe Saturday provided reason for optimism about Collins' switch to right tackle.
One of the major concerns I had with Collins moving to right tackle was with his patience in his pass set. Collins has been caught leaning at times, allowing good edge rushers to swipe his hands and fly by him. Sometimes, offensive tackles will turn their shoulders in their pass set attempting to overcompensate for the rusher's speed.
Both of these issues have to do with patience in pass protection. On Saturday night, La'el Collins remained patient, hitting his landmarks more consistently than he has all preseason. This allowed him to push Mack past the pocket, as he does on this rep.
Here we see Collins survive a strong initial strike from the defensive end by re-anchoring and sinking his hips. A key to Collins succeeding in this position switch will be to trust his coaching and technique. Despite losing at the point of attack initially here, he remained calm and trusted what he has been taught to do. A rep like this was great to see from La'el Collins.
Two of the three penalties called on Collins were for illegal hands to the face. I see two reasons for these flags. First off, I think he was tired. Early in the game he was pretty consistent with his hands, delivering a solid punch and hitting his spots. As the game wore on, however, those punches became more inconsistent. This could also be the reason his right hand seems to drop in his pass set at times.
Second, he just needs more work. With more reps and practice, I believe La'el will get this punch right. While he did have these problems with his punch, Collins' lower half looked better than it ever has last week.
Though Collins doesn't always look that smooth in his set, often appearing awkward with his feet and hands, he was able to get the job done against Mack rather consistently. And that is certainly encouraging.
Overall I think La'el Collins showed some good signs on Saturday night, and is certainly worthy of starting at right tackle this season. He will be tested early and often this year, as the Cowboys open up against the Giants and Broncos, each possessing impressive pass rushing units.