The Dallas Cowboys offense is expected to be a force once again in 2017 with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant, and of course their engine up front in the offensive line. However, some tweaks to this engine over the offseason in efforts to replace retired RT Doug Free have drawn plenty of national attention. Once expected to be Chaz Green's job on paper - until competition or injury forced a change - the Cowboys are now seemingly moving forward further with La'el Collins switching from LG to the RT spot.
Collins, who came to Dallas as yet another offensive lineman with "first round talent", (only as a UDFA due to some unfortunate circumstances) fit in perfectly as a rookie in 2015 - a mauling guard playing next to Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.
La'el Collins was at 1st-team RT in practice. Said all reps he's taking in practices are at RT. None at OG. Said that will be same in camp.
The upside La'el Collins showed at this left guard spot had most of Cowboys Nation weary about moving him to a new position, especially after a 2016 season that saw a healthy Chaz Green make four starts in place of the NFL's best left tackle - filling in admirably.
Whether or not the Cowboys offensive line would miss a beat with Collins staying at a proven position and Green seamlessly replacing Free may not be the question the Cowboys considered when lining up La'el for this move, but rather how they can be prepared for the likely event of a Green injury.
Sure, there is the free agent addition of Byron Bell along with Emmett Cleary and even UDFA Dan Skipper, but expecting any of these tackles to perform as well as Green has in a limited sample would be a massive stretch.
The depth the Cowboys have at guard, should Collins perform as a RT, is considerably more intriguing with another former first round selection in Jonathan Cooper. Cooper was re-signed for 2017 to give Dallas the option of finally tapping into his potential should they need to, as he never lived up to his draft stock in Arizona.
Playing for a contending team at arguably the easiest position in the league right now - LG for the Dallas Cowboys - could have amazing results for Cooper, and go a very long way in getting the Cowboys' five best OL on the field this season.
Emmett Cleary was at first-team left guard in practice today for Cowboys. Joe Looney and Chaz Green weren't practicing today.
Cleary has already shown the Cowboys some of his ability at LT, now also being worked at the LG spot. Joe Looney presumably will too when he is healthy, giving the Cowboys plenty of bodies to now potentially replace both La'el Collins and Doug Free's positions moving forward.
The jump from guard to tackle will not be easy for Collins, but after making so many flashes in his first year only to have 2016 taken away from him with a foot injury (thank you Ron Leary) there should be plenty of excitement to simply see him get back to work and find a way to help the rich get richer along the offensive line.
Conversely, La'el Collins could "leave" the left guard spot with a lot of growth stunted at what may be the LSU product's best position.
What we know for certain is that La'el is all-in on helping the team that gave him a shot in professional football however he can - a team now preparing to line up with first round talents from left to right this season. Look out.
Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury
Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith did not just defy all odds and return to normalcy in 2017, starting as the Cowboys' middle linebacker for a full 16 games. He became one of the team's and NFL's brightest success stories, earning the right to celebrate everyday activities returning to his life - as football did this season.
This is exactly what Jaylon Smith did on Twitter Friday afternoon, posting a Snapchat video of himself bowling. The caption on Twitter adds that Smith was enjoying his time at the lanes for the first time in two years.
It was January 1st, 2016 when Jaylon Smith's injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame changed his outlook forever. In that moment, Smith went from a projected top ten pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to a LB that would need a team to take a chance on him - and be patient.
The Dallas Cowboys proved to be that team, using the 34th overall pick on the Notre Dame star and supporting his efforts to return to the field from day one. The entire Cowboys' organization was rewarded by Smith remarkably playing every game this season, inspired by his constant determination to do just that.
So, a normal offseason for Jaylon Smith is anything but right now. Still battling the drop foot condition (one that is reportedly healing well and "fading") which limits his movement ability in the lower body, Smith is a normal Dallas Cowboys football player from this point forward.
He can say he's already defined all odds, can expect to take an even bigger stride forward in 2018, and Jaylon Smith can go bowling again. You can't help but be happy for #54.
Dak Prescott’s Accuracy Stands Out in Final 2017 Stats
2017 was a season that left the Dallas Cowboys with a ton of questions to think about. Dez Bryant's contract, Sean Lee and Tyron Smith's availability, and the future of DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving are some of those questions.
But there's another more pressing question for the Cowboys. How can they get the most out of Quarterback Dak Prescott and avoid another struggling year for him?
Also, what if he has another rough year? At what point does quarterback become a position that needs to be evaluated if he continues to struggle?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that will be the case. In fact, I have a lot of faith in Dak. I think he's shown a lot to be excited about and I definitely believe there's a "quarterback curve" in the NFL. Hopefully, #4 finds a way to get back on track in 2018.
A reason to be optimistic about Prescott's future is an impressive stat from NFL Next Gen Stats. Turns out, Dak Prescott ranked first in the NFL in "tight window throws" completion percentage with 45.8%.
According to Matt Harmon from NFL.com, a "tight window throw" is defined as a pass in which the intended receiver has less than a yard of separation from the defender.
Dak Prescott is far from a perfect quarterback and he's constantly bashed about his throwing accuracy. Just recently, he took part in a passing competition with David Carr before the NFL Honors and well... it's fair to say Carr completely beat him.
David Carr 6, Dak Prescott 1 pic.twitter.com/rV532Q3Cob
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) 6 de febrero de 2018
Cowboys Twitter was anything but forgiving for the young quarterback, but at the end of the day, I'm not sure a casual passing competition at an event like that one is the way you judge an NFL starting quarterback who has a 22-10 record in his career.
Dak has a long way to go before being considered an excellent quarterback in the league, but a bad season like 2017 doesn't mean it's the end of his career and that the Dallas Cowboys should start Cooper Rush over him.
It's not the first quarterback who struggles one year and he won't be the last one to bounce back from one. As of right now, Dak Prescott rightfully is the Dallas Cowboys QB1. Hopefully he has a better year next season.
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