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.
Malik McDowell Is Well Worth The Risk For The Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are reportedly brining defensive lineman Malik McDowell into The Star this week for a visit, as they decide whether or not to potentially sign him for the 2019 season.
McDowell is a former second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, who fell to day two because of what scouts call "off the field" or "character" concerns. McDowell did not last long with Seahawks, as he was released in 2017 following an ATV accident in which he reportedly suffered "extensive brain and eye trauma" according to Charles Robinson.
None of us know much about who Malik McDowell is as a person, or what concerns their really should be with his health. But what I do know is that on tape at Michigan State, McDowell was a top 5-10 player in the 2017 draft class. He was a stud, and has the traits to continue to be a stud in the NFL.
The 2017 NFL Draft is chock full of talented, athletic, and productive defensive linemen. While most of the draft pundits have focused on EDGE rushers thus far, the defensive tackle class also possesses some of this year's top NFL prospects. Arguably the best of those defensive tackles is Michigan State's Malik McDowell.
Back in 2017 I wrote a full scouting report on McDowell, detailing why he earned such a high grade on my board. McDowell is a versatile linemen who is explosive off the ball, powerful and rangy against the run, and a skilled pass rusher who plays with a high motor. What more could you really ask for?
"McDowell is a patient pass rusher at times, setting up the blocker how he likes and then beating them with ease. McDowell’s ability to swipe hands off helps him greatly, but his quick swim is his most effective pass rush move.
On this play he uses that swim to perfection, forcing the center to power down to the right before swimming back to the other side."
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
When the Spartans went to a three man pass rushing front, McDowell moved to the EDGE often and made plays with his quick, active hands and impressive swim move. He was much more impressive on the interior, however, and could be a direct replacement for David Irving as an explosive and powerful 3-technique for the Cowboys.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
I love that the Cowboys are bringing McDowell in for a free agent visit. His price will likely be low, as he is yet to play in an NFL game over the last two years, but his ceiling remains very high if he is healthy. It's rare for a player with his college production, natural ability, and measurables to completely fail in the NFL.
Maybe all McDowell needs is a second chance to get his head right and prove that he belongs in the league. Maybe he flames out quickly and can't get on the field due to "off the field" stuff. Or, maybe he simply isn't healthy enough to contribute as an NFL player. Regardless, for the price he'll likely command, McDowell is well worth the risk if the Cowboys are willing to take it.
Though Not A Direct Beasley Replacement, Randall Cobb Would Bring Value To Cowboys’ Offense
When the news broke Monday that veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb was visiting the Dallas Cowboys, most immediately assumed he would be a logical replacement for the departed Cole Beasley.
When you take a look at the film and each of their skillsets, however, you quickly see this is likely not the case.
While Cobb would be able to play in the slot as a receiver for the Cowboys if he signs, his value extends much further than just a slot receiver. Where Beasley makes his mark with precise route running, short area quickness, and 3rd down reliability, Cobb is much more of a threat after the catch. He's not the route runner that Beasley is, and really isn't an upgrade over Beasley as a receiver, but Cobb would be able to help the Cowboys' become more diverse in their offensive schemes.
Similar to Tavon Austin, Randall Cobb can be used in pre snap motion and jet-sweep packages, as well as a traditional running back. A college quarterback, Cobb's versatility is what makes him so attractive to NFL teams. Cobb would actually fit more of the Lance Dunbar "scat back" role of sorts for the Cowboys than that of the Cole Beasley slot receiver role. His versatility, however, allows him to carve out a lane within the offense which they haven't quite had before.
Another area Cobb could help the Cowboys is when the play breaks down. With experience in the Packers offense playing with arguably the greatest improviser we've ever seen in Aaron Rodgers, Cobb would be able to help Dak Prescott down the field when he breaks the pocket and the play is off schedule.
So often last season we talked about how the Cowboys offense is reliant on remaining on schedule, staying in front of the chains and not having to force the ball downfield. Unleashing the Mississippi State version of Dak Prescott, where he can improvise and use his legs to create big plays, tends to be when this offense is at its best, however.
Randall Cobb won't be a Pro Bowler if the Cowboys sign him, and depending on the money he receives, it might not even be a lock that he makes the final roster. But Cobb would be an exciting addition to a Cowboys offense which has lacked "creativity" over the last few seasons, and is looking to reinvent themselves to a certain extent.
A receiving corps headlined by Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, with versatile weapons such as Cobb and Tavon Austin behind them, is a pretty good one to head into draft day with.
Signing Cobb would keep the Cowboys from "needing" to take a wide receiver early in the draft, and would allow them to easily shed Allen Hurns if a receiving weapon did fall to them at 58th overall.
Should Cowboys Inquire About Trading for 49ers DL Solomon Thomas?
When it comes to making trades, the Dallas Cowboys are typically the buyer and not the seller. They proved that last season when they acquired Tavon Austin, Jamize Olawale, and Jihad Ward via trade and could be looking do the same once again this offseason. That's why today I want to talk about the Cowboys putting in a call to the San Francisco 49ers to inquire about potentially trading for Solomon Thomas.
New 49ers Defensive Line Coach Kris Kocurek is rumored to be evaluating Solomon Thomas' film in order to determine his fit and future with the organization moving forward. This is no easy task. In his two years in the league they've tried Thomas at DE and DT, but unfortunately the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft has yet to find his footing at either position.
Being a man without a position doesn't bode well for Solomon Thomas, especially after the 49ers acquired Defensive End Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs last week via trade. The 49ers are suddenly stacked along the defensive line. That's not all though, things could actually get worse for Thomas.
To further complicate matters, the 49ers could use their second overall pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft on the either Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams. If that's what indeed happens, someone is going to be the odd man out. If you haven't guessed it yet, I think that player could be Solomon Thomas.
As a former high first-round draft pick, Thomas would count $7,678,468 against the salary cap in 2019 and $8,958,213 in 2020. That's probably more than the 49ers want to pay for a rotational/backup defensive lineman. And cutting him this season would create $16.6 million in dead money, so a trade is the logical solution.
With all that in mind, it wouldn't surprise me if San Francisco put Solomon Thomas on the trade block any day now. He is only two years into his four-year rookie deal and comes with a fifth-year option as a former first-round draft pick. That means if a team does trade for him they have him under contract for essentially three more years.
If you add all of this up, it makes a lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. They need defensive line help and Solomon Thomas needs a fresh start. The Cowboys would get a young versatile defensive lineman and the 49ers get to dump his contract while also receiving some compensation in return. It's a win-win for all parties concerned.
I know what you're thinking though. What would the Cowboys have to give up in the trade? Well, it might not be as much as you think.
Fortunately, Thomas' failure to make an impact his first two years in the NFL favor the buyer, in this case the Dallas Cowboys. He has only four career quarterback sacks, three of which came in his rookie season. Stats of course don't always tell the entire story, but game film does. Unfortunately for Thomas, he can't escape his poor play.
I believe it wouldn't take more than a 2019 fourth-round draft pick to get Solomon Thomas away from the 49ers. Remember, just last season the New England Patriots sent a third-round draft pick to San Francisco and received Offensive Tackle Trent Brown and the fifth-round pick in return. Brown was a more proven player and was in the last year of his contract.
I don't know about you, but I kind of like the idea of Solomon Thomas in a Dallas Cowboys uniform. If anybody can tap into his potential, Rod Marinelli can. Giving up a 2019 fourth-round pick is well worth the gamble in my opinion.
Do you think the Cowboys should inquire about trading for Solomon Thomas?
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