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La’el Collins’ Health a Major Factor in 2021 and Beyond

One of the ' most underrated players the last few seasons has been Offensive . But after missing all of 2020 with a hip issue and corrective surgery, Collins has now become a concern both for the upcoming season and as a long-term asset for the franchise.

Collins' move to in 2017 was met with criticism at the time. His early displays of athleticism and power in run blocking from the position had people jumping to comparisons, so naturally the Cowboys were called fools for messing with a good thing.

Nevertheless, La'el soon emerged as one of the best right tackles in the NFL. Analysts graded him as a top-five player at his position and he was considered by many as a snub after 2019.

Unfortunately, Collins joined the myriad of Cowboys players with issues last season. His season-long absence was arguably the third-worst injury Dallas had in 2020 after 's and 's.

You could even make the case that the combined impact of missing Collins all year and losing Smith for 14 games was more damaging to the Cowboys' season than Prescott's injury. Had the offensive tackles been healthy and brought solvency to the front line, Dallas likely makes the even with at .

The Cowboys could more easily navigate the future if they had full confidence in at least one of their starting OT's health. But despite having two Pro Bowl-worthy tackles, their combined injury concern has some suggesting Dallas' spent their first-round pick on the position.

REPORT: Tyron Smith Should Return, but Probably no La'el Collins for Week 4
Cowboys OTs Tyron Smith & La'el Collins

Sadly, Tyron Smith probably isn't going to get significantly healthier in the coming years. Now 30 years old and with the mileage of 10 NFL seasons, Smith's likely to remain a high-risk asset for the duration of his career.

This is why La'el Collins, who turns just 28 in July, emerges as major factor for the Cowboys. His recovery from this hip issue and returning as a consistent presence on the field helps to mitigate Tyron Smith's issues for few years.

If Dallas can count on Collins then they don't have to worry so much about the depth behind him and Smith. An existing player like can provide sufficient insurance as the swing tackle as long as you feel good about at least one starter's reliability.

Right now the Cowboys are expressing confidence in both Collins' and Smith's returns for 2021. But this time of year is always when you get the positive spin; at least five months before anyone has to to .

Reality won't be realized until Collins is truly back on the field and resuming his duties. Then only time will tell if the hip condition is truly behind him or a source of continued frustration for the next few years.

In either case, La'el Collins' health will have a significant impact on the Dallas Cowboys' decision making in 2021 and in future seasons.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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