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.
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.
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.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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