The Offseason is good for a lot of things. I personally use it to read, catch up, and get ready for the upcoming NFL season. Actual NFL teams use it for the Draft - the Cowboys dominated that - and to experiment with potential ideas to implement when it all starts to matter. This might be the case for the Dallas Cowboys as they're currently working with 2015 Undrafted Free Agent superstar La'el Collins at Right Tackle as opposed to his normal position, Left Guard.
Perhaps you believe that Left Guard was La'el Collins' position because that's the one that he's best suited for. Maybe you believe La'el was in between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick because the Dallas Cowboys didn't want to trust Tony Romo's right side to a rookie two years ago. Or maybe, just maybe, you believe La'el Collins played Left Guard because Doug Free was a legitimate Right Tackle.
Whatever your belief, it seems like La'el Collins could spend his third year donning the blue and silver protecting the right edge of the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line. You'll of course remember that the aforementioned Doug Free retired earlier this offseason, so La'el is filling a need the Cowboys currently have. But what about Left Guard then? There's no more Ron Leary - he defected to the Denver Broncos - to take those scraps, so who will play there? The answer to that may be the reason La'el Collins is kicking outside, and it's an interesting one.
La'el Collins To Right Tackle Isn't A Slam Dunk
To the casual observer the idea of La'el Collins moving out all the way to the right may not seem like a big deal. After all, La'el played Offensive Tackle during his collegiate days at LSU. He was good there... so he should be good here. Right? Isn't that the way it works? Bueller?
John Owning of FanRag Sports cautioned against this move, citing all-world stud Tyron Smith as a prime example of exactly how moving linemen can be filled with growing pains. Consider that La'el Collins has spent his entire NFL life so far learning - and perfecting - the mannerisms, mechanics, and philosophies of playing Left Guard. Playing Right Tackle means that all of that is mirrored and the caliber of pass rusher he's tasked with blocking increases significantly.
The truth of the matter is that La'el Collins is going to have to be paid soon - although contrary to what was some Twitter discussion he will be a Restricted Free Agent in 2018 - and you don't pay prime dollar for Left Guards. La'el Collins was a golden goose the Cowboys accidentally tripped over after the 2015 NFL Draft. To be able to cultivate him into a starting Right Tackle opposite of Tyron Smith and next to Zack Martin for a generation is a huge gift and luxury.
Count me as one who's excited about the prospect of La'el Collins at Right Tackle, but I'm admittedly in this camp under a veil of patience. Nobody, and I mean nobody, can just swing out to Right Tackle from Left Guard and be a beast all the time. Remember this in October.
Does La'el Collins' Move Mean The Cowboys Believe In Jonathan Cooper At Left Guard?
Simple math tells us that if La'el Collins is playing Right Tackle and not Left Guard that the Left Guard position needs someone to play it. I'm kind of a math expert, I know.
The Dallas Cowboys currently have Byron Bell and Jonathan Cooper as options to play along the interior of the left side of the Offensive Line. Byron Bell is a fine lineman - and was partly the subject of a Stephen Jones joke recently - but the sexier option in the minds of Dallas Cowboys fans is the 2013 7th Overall Pick of the Arizona Cardinals - Jonathan Cooper.
How do I know that Cowboys Nation finds this option sexy? If Jonathan Cooper is your LG and La'el Collins is your RT, here's your Offensive Line from left to right:
- Tyron Smith, 2011 1st Rounder, 9th Overall
- Jonathan Cooper, 2013 1st Rounder, 7th Overall
- Travis Frederick, 2013 1st Rounder, 31st Overall
- Zack Martin, 2014 1st Rounder, 16th Overall
- La'el Collins, 2015 UDFA, but would've gone in the first if not for what we all know.
Five First Rounders on the Offensive Line.
Everybody wants to be able to say that, you know it. And I don't blame them. I like saying cool things, and this is the perfect coal for the engine-that-crushes-Eagles-fans-souls.
But seriously, it makes sense that Jonathan Cooper is the reason the Dallas Cowboys feel confident enough to take the risks we mentioned to move La'el Collins to RT. The Cowboys brought Cooper in shortly after the 2016 regular season ended, and they liked him so much that they brought him back on a one-year deal.
If La'el Collins were to stick to the position he's played all along in Dallas, LG, then that would mean the Cowboys would have to depend on Chaz Green or Emmett Cleary at RT, although Bell himself is an option... since Doug Free isn't coming back (sigh). It's not hard to see that the Cowboys must view the Cooper at LG and Collins at RT fix as the best one for the sake of the overall unit.
Get excited to say the cool thing, because it could seriously happen. Huzzah.
Cowboys RB Mike Weber’s Injury Scare Continues Concerning Trend
Rookie RB Mike Weber had a brief scare earlier this week with a knee injury in practice, but thankfully the MRI came back with a good report. However, as he fights to have a future with the Dallas Cowboys, this health incident is a concerning reminder of Weber's recent history.
One reason that Weber fell to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft was due to battling injuries during his last two years at Ohio State. He lost his starting job in 2017 due to ongoing hamstring issues and also had to miss time last year because of a foot strain.
Carrying the load for the Buckeyes is a far different workload than being second or third on the Cowboys' RB depth chart. But this latest scare happened in early May, just two weeks after Mike joined the team and well before the more strenuous activities of an NFL offseason.
A practice injury can cost you just as badly as one that happens in a game. And with Dallas already thin at RB, it could leave them severely shorthanded if it occurs during the regular season.
Many have projected that the Cowboys' RB group in 2019 would have Ezekiel Elliott as the obvious starter and then rookies Weber and Tony Pollard behind him. While Pollard was drafted three rounds ahead of Weber, he's not built to take a large number of carries if Zeke were to go out.
If Mike Weber does make the team, he would be expected to take a sizable role if something bad happen with Elliott.
The "injury prone" label is disastrous for any athlete, but especially a guy with no real claim to a roster spot. If Weber causes concern in the front office about his durability, they may go a different way at final cuts.
Remember, Mike's not just up against Pollard and Darius Jackson for a roster spot. There are still plenty of veteran free agent running backs out there that Dallas could turn to if they're not confident about their young prospects.
This isn't too say that one scary moment in May, which ultimately didn't amount to much, is reason to cut bait with Mike Weber. But when you stack it up with his injury history in college, it does make you wonder how he'll do over the course of an entire NFL season.
Hopefully, Weber bounces back from this and has a great summer. Former Buckeye RBs have treated Dallas well the last few years, and it'd be fantastic if Mike can provide the same solid solid depth that Rod Smith did.
But this latest news is just a reminder of why Dallas can't rest easy at running back just yet, and why they may still have another move to make to prepare for 2019.
Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Graduating From Notre Dame
The 2019 season is right around the corner for the Dallas Cowboys, with OTA's and training camp getting ready to kickoff in the coming weeks/months.
Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith made the most of his offseason, going back to Notre Dame to finish out his college degree. Smith is set to graduate from Notre Dame this Saturday, and will walk to earn his degree in Film & Television.
Smith talked to DallasCowboys.com's David Helman about why it was so important for him to graduate and finish what he started at Notre Dame.
“When I left after my junior year, I promised my mom that I would go back and finish...Finishing my third year with the Cowboys, it was time.” - Jaylon Smith
2,025 @NotreDame undergraduates will receive degrees during Commencement Weekend. That contingent includes @thejaylonsmith Yes, the current @dallascowboys & former @NDFootball All-American linebacker, who took 21 credits this spring #4for40 #GraduatingChampions #CEV
Smith continues his leadership on and off the field, and we all send our congratulations to the Cowboys starting MIKE linebacker!
Ezekiel Elliott Snubbed from Top 25 Players Under 25 List
On Tuesday, Pro Football Focus published it's Top 25 Players Under 25, with Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch one of only three linebackers on the list. Oddly, one of the best players on the team was absent from this same list; Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.
The running backs they included were Kareem Hunt, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara. Pro Football Focus has been very open about their dislike of Elliott's 2018 season, ranking him 30th in the NFL according to their player grades.
Elliott has won the NFL's rushing title in two of his three seasons and likely would have won it in 2017 had he not been served with a league-mandated six-game suspension. Elliott ran for nearly 1,000 yards in the 10 games he played, which put him in 10th place in rushing in 2017. Le'Veon Bell led the NFL in rushing that season with 1,291 yards. Using some basic arithmetic, I've discovered that Elliott finished just 308 yards off the league lead in six fewer games.
Despite being the most productive back in the NFL in his first three years in the NFL, Elliott gets knocked because he sees such a high volume of carries and targets from the Dallas Cowboys offense.
On Wednesday, Mark Chichester of Pro Football Focus talked about the players who just missed the cut. Here's what he had to say about Ezekiel Elliott.
"There’s no doubt that Ezekiel Elliott is one of the top players at his position, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that his production is, in large part, thanks to the offense that Dallas has built around him. Over the last three years, Elliott ranks first in rushing attempts (868), rushing yards (4048), rushing yards after contact (2567) and first down conversions (219). However, his three-year rushing grade of 80.2 ranks ninth among the 36 backs with at least 300 attempts in that span, while his 0.119 missed tackles forced per attempt ranks tied for 27th among the same group."
Mark Chichester - Pro Football Focus
Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best running backs in the NFL, if not the best. There can be an argument for Todd Gurley or Le'Veon Bell, and maybe even Saquon Barkley, but if you aren't including Ezekiel Elliott in the discussion, the discussion is a bit flawed.
For three years, under Scott Linehan as the offensive coordinator, every team in the NFL knows that Elliott is going to get the ball and get the ball a lot. Primarily on first downs. Yet, Elliott continues to be productive and grind out his yards, even against heavily stacked fronts.
I understand the argument that Elliott wasn't very efficient with his touches in 2018, but when you are the primary focus for opposing defenses, it makes it difficult to be efficient. Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamar had the benefit of being coached by Andy Reid and Sean Payton who are considered creative offensive minds. Saquon Barkley had the benefit of Odell Beckham Jr keeping safeties honest.
While the Cowboys had Amari Cooper, the passing game still doesn't get near the respect that the Cowboys run game gets from opposing defensive coordinators. With Kellen Moore on board and the talk about presenting multiple formations for opposing teams to figure out, the Cowboys offense could get more creative in 2019.
Heading into his fourth year in the NFL, it's amazing that Ezekiel Elliott apparently still has something to prove to some out there. After winning rushing titles in two of his three seasons and averaging right around 100 yards a game, Elliott still doesn't get the respect he deserves from national observers.
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