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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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1 Comment
  • brandon467

    Good thing these reports are merely opinions and not predictive of future outcomes. If they were predictive, Tyron Smith would be getting consistently overpowered and Travis Frederick would be getting abused by quick DLs, not to mention the way the Boys “reached” for a 2nd or 3rd round talent.

    I’ll trust the Boys coaches know what they are doing and that their NFL observations aren’t a wee bit more practical than some scouting reports that focus on what he might not be able to do.

Star Blog

A Look Around The NFC East: Week 2

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants' Blitz

The usually competitive NFC East got off to a shaky start last week, with half the division winning their season opener and the other half falling short.

Now entering week 2, the Eagles and Redskins have a chance to begin to distance themselves from the loser of the Cowboys/Giants game, and both of those 0-1 teams are looking to "save" their season. Yes, that sounds dramatic, but a home loss within the division to fall to 0-2 could be debilitating for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward.

Regardless, let's go around the division and see what each team has on tap for this Sunday.

Philadelphia Eagles

The defending champs opened up their 2018 campaign just as we expected: with a home victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta sort of gave that game away last Thursday night, but if the Eagles can stack Nick Foles-led wins on top of each other they'll put themselves in a great spot to win the East when Carson Wentz returns.

The Eagles will be on the road this week for the first time, traveling to Tampa Bay to play the 1-0 Buccaneers. The Bucs pulled the upset of the weekend last week, defeating New Orleans 48-40. It's hard to imagine that "Fitzmagic" continuing against the vaunted Eagles defense, though.

Philly is a three point road favorite against Tampa Bay this Sunday.

Washington Redskins

My "sleeper" team in the NFC East, and pick to finish second in the division, looked rather impressive in their week one drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals. Of course, Arizona isn't a very good team, and will probably be picking top 5 in the draft next April. Still, it was a good showing for the Redskins to open the season.

Washington got Adrian Peterson going on the ground for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown, and Chris Thompson helped keep them on schedule offensively as well. Washington hasn't been talked about much this offseason, but is sitting at 1-0 with a game against the 0-1 Colts on the horizon.

Washington is a 6 point favorite against Indianapolis this Sunday, and has a good chance of starting 2-0 on the year.

New York Giants

Though we are just one week into the 2018 regular season, an important matchup is brewing within the NFC East. After falling to 0-1 with a home loss in their season opener, the Giants will travel to Texas to face the Cowboys on Sunday night football this week.

With both teams sitting at 0-1, neither can afford to put themselves into a nearly-insurmountable hole with a second straight loss. Since the merger 90% of teams who fall to 0-2 fail to make the playoffs, and it would be back-to-back seasons of missing out for both the Cowboys and Giants.

New York is a three point road underdog on Sunday, and it seems like most of the football world is leaning towards them and their weapons coming away with the victory.

Either way, this game will have massive implications on the 2018 season.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Sigue Para la Ofensiva de los Cowboys?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Sigue Para la Ofensiva de los Cowboys?

En lo que fue una de las actuaciones más decepcionantes de la semana 1, los Dallas Cowboys no fueron capaces de avanzar en la ofensiva más que en una serie en la que anotaron un touchdown y una conversión de dos puntos. Fue un juego en el que nada funcionó más que la defensiva, la cual limitó a Cam Newton y compañía a sólo 16 puntos en un partido que pareció parejo, pero realmente no lo fue.

Ahora, antes de que los Cowboys jueguen su primer partido divisional del año contra los New York Giants, los aficionados del America's Team se preguntan ¿qué sigue para la ofensiva de los Dallas Cowboys? La ofensiva que tanto prometía hace un par de años, cuando Ezekiel Elliott y Dak Prescott lideraron a su equipo al primer sembrado de la NFC como novatos.

No se puede culpar a una sola persona por lo que sucedió el domingo pasado. La actuación fue tan deficiente que se tiene que señalar todo lo que falló. En primera instancia, hablemos del pésimo plan ofensivo de parte del coordinador de esta ofensiva, Scott Linehan.

Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan

Dallas Cowboys coaches Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett

Si algo hemos escuchado decir una y otra vez acerca de la ofensiva de Dak Prescott y los Cowboys es que es una sencilla, pero una difícil de vencer. Naturalmente, eso ha cambiado los últimos dos años. Esta ofensiva ya no debería de ser la misma que tomó a la liga por sorpresa en el 2016, no obstante, lo es.

En varias ocasiones, los Panthers no tuvieron ningún problema "telegrafiando" las jugadas de los Cowboys en cuanto sacaban el balón, resaltando la poca creatividad en la ofensiva de Linehan. Peor aún, en los momentos en los que se podría decir que fue creativo, lo fue en un mal sentido. Después de firmar y obtener a tantos receptores talentosos (que a pesar de no tener un claro #1, hay mucha profundidad), Dallas se alineó con dos tight ends en formaciones con cinco jugadores abiertos. ¿Por qué?

Esto le dio muy pocas oportunidades a Dak Prescott, quien hizo el problema más grande. Cuando tuvo esas pocas ventanas para lanzar profundo, la puntería del QB les costó bastantes series a los Cowboys. La más notable de estas, un pase profundo en la que el TE Blake Jarwin se había desmarcado y pudo haber llegado muy lejos, incluso quizá a la zona de anotación. En cambio, Prescott apenas llegó el balón a sus pies.

Sin embargo, la puntería profunda de Prescott es la menor de mis preocupaciones. Siempre hemos sabido que no es un Aaron Rodgers ni un Tom Brady. Lo que más me sorprende es la falta de calma de Dak. Siempre se le respetó por eso como novato, pero ahora se ve incomodó en el bolsillo, algo que tiene que cambiar inmediatamente puesto que era una de sus fortalezas.

Finalmente, la línea ofensiva, que se supone es una de las unidades más fuertes del equipo, se vio mal. La'el Collins y Tyron Smiths fueron responsables de múltiples castigos de holding, que terminaron matando series ofensivas. Connor Williams tuvo un debut bastante complicado contra el DT Kawann Short. Joe Looney, a pesar de ser un backup, se vio bien.

La pregunta de muchos es, ¿habrá cambios?

 1

La respuesta a corto plazo es un rotundo no. Nada cambiará en el equipo de coaches ni en la posición de quarterback durante este inicio de la campaña 2018. Sin embargo, si el equipo continua perdiendo y se llega a topar con un récord muy perdedor en la semana 8 o 9, preparémonos.

Comenzaré diciendo que el primer cambio que considero más probable es en la posición de coordinador ofensivo. Si bien Dak puede resultar no ser el mariscal franquicia que tantos queríamos, ¿no vale la pena verlo jugar bajo el mando de otro coordinador? Un coordinador que lo ponga en una mejor posición para tener éxito y que se encargue de reducir el aparente miedo que hay a la hora de lanzar a lo largo. Eso sería ideal para el desarrollo de Dak, si es que llega a haber cambios.

Lo mismo para Jason Garrett, quien para mantenerse vivo debe voltear el rumbo de su equipo ya que lo que vimos en la primera semana fue desastroso. Garrett podría estar en peligro si las cosas no cambian pronto, sobre todo considerando la presencia de alguien como el coach de la secundaria defensiva, Kris Richard.

Finalmente, hablemos de lo que le espera a Dak Prescott.

Si Dak no corrige su manera de jugar y continua actuando como lo hizo la primera semana, habrá problemas en su futuro. Considerando que una extensión de contrato se avecina, Dak tiene que demostrar que puede tomar ese siguiente paso. Esperemos que lo logre, porque al final de cuentas, esperamos que todos en el equipo mejoren, pero ¿qué pasa si no es así?

Un juego no es suficiente para quitarle el trabajo, pero una mala temporada podría serlo. Ya sea por agencia libre o por medio del NFL Draft, los Cowboys podrían estar buscando alternativas si Prescott continua con este nivel todo el año.

Personalmente, tengo fe en Prescott. Creo que a pesar de que no será un MVP que cargará al equipo a la gloria, puede hacerlo con un buen apoyo. Y francamente, creo que Dallas tiene justo eso. Simplemente hay que ejecutar. Puede ser la parte más difícil de todas, pero hay mucho talento en el roster como para ser limitados a ocho puntos.

Las primeras impresiones son duraderas, pero no siempre son ciertas. Esperemos que el equipo encuentre una manera de darle la vuelta al barco cuando se enfrenten a los Giants este domingo en el NBC Sunday Night Football que se transmitirá en ESPN 2 en México.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Sigue Para la Ofensiva de los Cowboys?" 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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Star Blog

Film Review: Analyzing The Sacks Given Up Vs. Carolina

Kevin Brady

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Film Review: Analyzing The Sacks Given Up Vs. Carolina

There's no question the Dallas Cowboys passing game failed as a whole on Sunday in their season opener. But, as usual, everyone is looking to assign the blame to someone in particular.

Was it the offensive line? The receivers? The coaching? The quarterback? In reality, it was a little bit of everyone. The stars on the team did not perform to their ability, and the role players looked bad at times.

The Cowboys vaunted offensive line surrendered six sacks, and Dak Prescott appeared to be under duress all afternoon. Of course, this doesn't all fall on the offensive line, though. Prescott could not find open receivers down field often, even when they were there to be found.

So, once the All-22 came out on NFL Gamepass, I decided to take a look and see who's "fault" each of the six sacks was. Of the six (one of which looked more like failed quarterback draw) I placed three "on" the offensive line/pass protection and two "on" Dak Prescott.

Let's examine a few of these sacks in greater detail.

dalvscar2018 sack 1

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The first time the Panthers got to Prescott looked way too easy. Backed up in their own territory the Cowboys came out in the I-formation with a tight end inline on the right side. Prior to the snap Carolina shifts their weakside linebacker over the left tackle, creating a two-over-one situation on the backside.

This should have been a red-alert for a blitz, and should've been communicated across the line of scrimmage. Instead, with veteran center Travis Frederick out, there seemed to be communication issues.

Tyron Smith steps down to take care of his inside gap, allowing the blitzing weakside backer to run free. On paper, this should be Ezekiel Elliott's man, but that is a damn-near impossible block for him to make coming across the formation.

Still, it is his responsibility, and he fails to pick up that block. This sack falls "on" the pass protection, but it really has to do more with poor pre-snap communication.

dalvscar2018 sack 2

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Later on in the game we see one of the sacks which really falls on Dak Prescott. The Cowboys come out in trips to the near side, and Ezekiel Elliott and a tight end stacked to the right. Carolina once again shows two-over-one, this time over the right tackle.

This screams blitz, and Elliott is able to step up and take the blitzer head on this time. The interior is where this pass protection breaks down, as left guard Connor Williams gets flat-out beat by the 3 technique.

Despite being beat relatively quickly, there's no excuse for Prescott to take a sack here. He has his tight end flashing open quickly in the middle of the field, and has the option to tuck it and run with green grass in front of him if he doesn't want to try to fit it between zones as well.

Prescott has to process the coverage and blitz quicker here to avoid the negative play. He also has to run more often, but that's another point for another post.

dalvscar2018 sack 4th qr

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This third sack falls mostly on the offensive line, and once again can be attributed to poor communication on the interior. Carolina brings a bit of a modified cross-dog blitz, with the 2i technique defensive tackle occupying both Williams and Looney, allowing for the blitzing linebacker to run free through the b-gap.

Joe Looney and Connor Williams have to communicate this better. Williams completely turns his hips and shoulders rather than staying square, and is unable to slide off the 2i to the linebacker. Looney should take the down lineman over, allowing Williams to slide off.

This has more to do with lack of familiarity than anything else, and is actually somewhat encouraging. This should get better as the season goes on.

dalvscar2018 sack 4th qr 2

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dalvscar2018 sack 4th qr 2 wide view

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These final two clips are the same play, just from different angles. I wanted to highlight how sometimes, you just get beat, and I don't think you can really blame any one person alone.

From the end-zone angle you can clearly see Connor Williams get beat by the 3 technique once again, and on first view it appears the sack is his fault. But when you really look at the whole play progression, you see that both the play design and Dak Prescott are also to blame.

Carolina is in two-deep coverage attempting to avoid the big play. Dallas is already down multiple possessions and with time running out, they know they can just sit back and play this type of off-coverage.

Dallas is looking to push the ball vertically down the seams, but both deep safeties are able to sit on the hash and just wait for the receivers to reach them on their route. You could argue that Prescott should have hit the hitch route on the far side, but it doesn't appear to be on his radar.

Overall, Carolina just won on this play. Sometimes that happens, those guys get paid to play too.

If there's a conclusion to be drawn, it's that just about everyone was bad at Sunday. If Dak Prescott, the offensive line, Ezekiel Elliott, the receivers, and the coaches are all this bad going forward, it's going to be a long season.

But, as you can see, simply getting some familiarity with one another and communicating better should help this offense develop throughout the season.



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