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Scouting La’el Collins As An Offensive Tackle

Sean Martin

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Scouting La'el Collins As An Offensive Tackle

Along with Jaylon Smith seeing the field, the biggest story coming out of the Cowboys' OTAs was that La'el Collins continued to work at right tackle - returning from an injury that cost him all but 3 games in 2016, these starts coming of course at left guard.

Collins' emergence as Dallas' seemingly preferred first option at right tackle in replacing Doug Free is a move I outlined in much greater detail right here, prior to turning on his tape from LSU to study him at left tackle in the SEC.

The Cowboys offensive line has been regarded as the best in the league for a few seasons now thanks to the play of unsung heroes like La'el Collins in 2015, going from an undrafted player to making the most of his opportunity playing next to Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick at left guard. Can this unit sustain their pedigree with the reshuffling that will occur should Collins move to right tackle?

Here is what the tape says.

Scouting La'el Collins As An Offensive Tackle 1

Tackle La'el Collins: Strengths

Going back to La'el Collins' college days to study him in hopes of projecting him well to a new position was an interesting exercise, having already seen the traits that made him such a dominant guard in flashes for the Cowboys.

There were plenty of snaps at LSU where the Tigers lined a tight end up next to Collins, and he looked much more comfortable in these sets - playing virtually as a guard.

As a true tackle, Collins was able to play in space rather consistently by relying on his initial reach and upper body to punch rushers off-balance and drive them. La'el's lower body drive off of the ball along with his footwork in mirroring edge defenders may not have been perfect, but he did show the ability to anchor and seal the corner before adequately locating the defender's hands and taking them away.

Collins' performance as a mauling left tackle, where he was considered a first round talent, are even more impressive when you consider that he did not have the measurables going for him entering the draft.

As a run blocker, La'el Collins' consistent mean streak helped him be the blocker clearing paths that Cowboys Nation will remember vividly, steering his man with his strong hands shooting inside as a blocker while his base remained wide.

Collins' 2015 tape with the Cowboys showed off everything his film at tackle did a year prior in college, only lacking the play-to-play consistency that top offensive linemen possess. The flashes were still there in a big way at LT though, as Collins was able to take out speed rushers before clearing to the second level thanks to his upper body while also using his lower body to anchor, deal with power, and drive defenders out of plays.

Tackle La'el Collins: Weaknesses

Another thing I looked at after watching Collins at LT were other pre-draft scouting reports on his ability at the position. Both Dane Brugler and Bryan Broaddus immediately saw the potential for him to reach his ceiling as a guard at the next level, writing on the team website:

"He has enough talent to survive on the edges, projecting as a starting swing tackle at the next level, but might be ideally-suited inside at offensive guard – top-25 talent and long-term NFL starter." - Dane Brugler

"Might have to play inside or at right tackle." - Bryan Broaddus

In my own evaluation of La'el Collins, I saw a player that was much too dependent on his upper body. Not driving blocks with his base, Collins played way too high on an alarming amount of snaps, creating this drive often by sliding his hands up on his defender and playing above them.

This will make it hard for La'el to adjust to RT in the NFL, along with the learning curve of correcting everything he's learned about being a guard. The strong side defensive end spot has become a marquee position for team's best pass rushers, giving Collins little room for error when it comes to firing off of the snap as slow as he did in college or lunging at his man.

This upright stance for Collins sets him up to get beat to the inside on counter moves, which may not be as big of an issue in Dallas thanks to Zack Martin starting at RG. When dealing with rushers that can flatten and capture the corner quickly though, Collins will get beat to the spot and miss with his initial punch too often.

You could see him try to keep his hands low on these sets to give him a chance at steering the rusher behind the pocket, but defenders that were able to work under him took advantage of his hands being either too low to generate any power or caught rising up high to knock him off balanced.

La'el Collins

Tackle La'el Collins: Summary

If La'el Collins is truly going to protect Dak Prescott as the Dallas Cowboys' starting right tackle moving forward, his past tape at the OT position shows that there will be some growing pains.

These are obviously growing pains the team feels comfortable going through, as they've committed to spending this entire offseason working their 2015 post-draft steal at the RT spot. The Cowboys will see flashes, especially in the running game where Ezekiel Elliott thrived putting his foot in the ground and exploding inside off right tackle, should Collins earn this starting job - as his power and competitiveness carry over to any position.

Where we're all have to collectively hold our breath is when La'el has to deal with rushers that have counter moves to win inside, length to avoid his punch, or the speed to take full advantage of his laboring kick slide.

This is obviously a post-draft scouting report, so I can't conclude it with a round grade as I do with prospects, but Collins' first-round considerations as a tackle with elite guard traits were fully warranted.

Now it is time for him to truly be the prospect he was on track to be as a starting NFL tackle for America's Team.

Tell us what you think about "Scouting La’el Collins As An Offensive Tackle" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

For many years, Linebacker Sean Lee has been the face of the Dallas Cowboys defense. However, that's quickly changing. The young duo consisting of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have taken over the linebacker position by dominating the field from sideline to sideline with their explosive talent. As a rookie, Vander Esch filled in for Lee at the weak linebacker position when the veteran went down injured and never gave the job back.

Currently, uncertainty surrounds Sean Lee, who took a pay cut earlier in the year to stay with the franchise he's played for since the beginning of his professional career in 2010. What will his role be in a young fueled defense in the upcoming season?

As we've all been able to see throughout his career, Sean Lee is one of the best in the game when he's healthy. Unfortunately, that's not very often. His injury proneness led him to a position change years ago, when he was moved from the MIKE (middle linebacker) to the WILL (weak side linebacker) position. Now, those two spots are taken care of.

Where does this leaves Lee? The main question is whether or not he'll move to the strong side. Many question if this would be the correct call, given that he could be at even more risk of suffering yet another injury in a position that leads to more contact. The other option would be for him to be Vander Esch's backup at WILL.

Wish List for Dallas Cowboys 1st Preseason Game

Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee

Lately, it seems like the Cowboys will indeed move him to the strong-side. After all, it only makes sense to have your best three players on the field at the same time. On minicamp, the Cowboys have been playing the veteran at SAM, letting him get reps and grow comfortable in what seems to be his new job.

But even if Sean Lee starts lining up on the strong side, what can we expect from him next season? The way the NFL offenses operate now leads to teams sending their nickel packages to the field more often than not. For the Cowboys 4-3 defense, that means three cornerbacks, two linebackers. When that's the case, it will be Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith who we see out there, not Lee.

Damien Wilson was the team's "starter" on the strong side, and he only managed to get 286 snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. That represents 28% of the team's total snaps. Even if Sean Lee becomes the starting strong side linebacker, we likely won't be seeing him as much.

Even still, I'd expect Sean Lee's experience to play a big factor when the team needs Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to catch their breath. Lee could jump in and play a few snaps at any LB spot and do a good job at it.

After all, we can't forget that despite his injuries, Lee is a remarkable player on defense. He should still be one of the smartest linebackers with extraordinary instincts. There's a reason why, before Vander Esch arrived to America's Team, the defense crumbled without him. Last year, despite losing the starting gig, Lee still had 118 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and an interception. The longtime veteran can still play.

It will be odd for Cowboys Nation to watch Lee on a completely new role. It's also hard to put the finger on what his production will look like at the end of the year. If there's one thing we know though, is that the veteran will work hard every practice trying to get the most playing time he can. We should be excited about the team's top three linebackers.

Tell me what you think about "What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott and Coaches Both to Blame for Cowboys Offensive Woes
James D. Smith via AP

Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.

“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”

Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.

But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.

Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.

"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com

If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.

Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."

The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.

Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.



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Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?

Kevin Brady

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Ezekiel Elliott

Who is the Cowboys best player?

A question debated seemingly daily on social media, most fans seem to center their arguments around the same few names. Dak Prescott, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Ezekiel Elliott.

As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.

"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein

Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?

For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.

Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.

Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.

I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.

So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.



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