Often referred to as the most dominant unit in all of football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line features three first round picks and a fourth first-round talent on the starting group. In 2016, they were without one of those four first-round talents, as La'el Collins missed the majority of the season with a torn ligament in his foot.
Collins took over as the starting left guard during the Cowboys seven-game losing skid in 2015. With neither the running nor passing game working as well as anticipated, head coach Jason Garrett inserted Collins into the lineup looking for a spark.
That spark was delivered, and Collins played the rest of his rookie season at left guard, producing highlight plays like this one just about every week.
PFF has given out the highest grade we give run blockers twice this season, and La'el Collins has both. #Pancakes https://t.co/30GIvcaFJR
Going into 2016, Collins was firmly cemented a top Ronald Leary on the depth chart, and was expected to take a huge step forward in his progression. The fact is, that progression didn't happen as quickly as we hoped.
Collins struggled in his short-time active in 2016, leading many to wonder just how healthy he was from the get-go. In the season opener, he had troubles with the stud defensive tackles of the New York Giants, getting thrown around at times in pass protection.
He improved week two against the Washington Redskins, and once again showed flashes of the greatness everyone believes he possesses. The following week was his final appearance of 2016, injuring his foot against the Chicago Bears.
The fact of the matter is, when Ronald Leary was in the lineup, the Cowboys offense played much better than when he was not. Leary and All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith had immaculate chemistry on deuce blocks, working up to the second level to clear running lanes for Ezekiel Elliott beautifully.
Now set to get paid somewhere other than Dallas, Leary is on his way out the door, and La'el Collins is back to return to his left guard throne.
The question is, will this injury set Collins' development back even further?
When healthy, we saw the talent which Collins brings to the table. Strong hands, brute power, and the ability to flatten even the best defenders, La'el has a chance to join his teammates on the All-Pro squad in 2017.
The problems with La'el are mostly technical and mental. In pass protection, he must get more fluid in his kick steps, and learn to power down against inside moves better. He has the size and strength to anchor against bull rushes, but he just needs to become more consistent doing so.
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At times, La'el will initially step with the wrong foot, or go the wrong way in zone blocking. Against the Giants, he sometimes zeroed in on the linebacker he was "supposed" to block, rendering him unable adjust when another defender flashed on his path. He must keep himself square when working to the linebackers, and keep his eyes up at all times.
La'el Collins can do all of this. He is more than capable of improving on his flaws, which are all very coach-able. If he can remain healthy, Collins has a chance to be the fourth Pro-Bowler on the Dallas Cowboys offensive line in 2017.
From tackle to tackle, the Cowboys have the best offensive line in football. La'el Collins will prove to be a valuable part of this unit next season.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
REPORT: Police Detain Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford After Bar Fight
According to TMZ, Tyrone Crawford was involved in a brawl at a bar in Panama City, FL last Friday night. The Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman and team captain was detained by police but apparently was not arrested.
The level of Crawford's involvement has not been substantiated, but TMZ's report does have him shoving police officers at some point in the action. The incident was reportedly captured by surveillance equipment at the bar.
Given that he was not arrested, one could assume that Tyrone was not one of the primary players in the melee. But that doesn't mean the NFL won't still review this matter as it relates to the personal conduct policy, and Cowboys fans know too well how "fair" that process can be.
This is certainly not a story you'd expect to see attached to Tyrone Crawford, who has been a model citizen and leader since entering the league in 2012.
Dallas elected to keep Crawford this season despite solid potential savings. He will count $10.1 million against their 2019 salary cap, which is high for his average production. However, he can play multiple positions and is one of their most experienced players.
Even if Tyrone were to get suspended by the league, it likely wouldn't be more than a one or two-game ban given his record and reputation. It shouldn't change anything about his status with the team.
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