#71 La'el Collins
La’el Collins was born on July 26, 1993 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He played his collegiate career at LSU where he won the Jacobs Blocking award in 2014, which recognizes the top offensive lineman in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Collins is a starting left guard in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, who signed him as an undrafted free agent after the completion of the 2015 NFL Draft.
La’el Collins attended high school at Redemptorist High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Collins was named to the 3A All-State team as a sophomore, junior, and senior in high school.
During Collins’ senior year, he paved the way for running back Jeremy Hill and helped lead Redemptorist to the LHSAA Class 3A state quarterfinals, where they lost to Patterson who were led by running back Kenny Hillard. Collins, Hill, and Hillard would all go on to become teammates in college at LSU.
After his senior season, La’el Collins would go on to play in the Under Armour All-America Game and ended up being named All-America by Parade and USA Today.
Collins was considered one of the premier offensive tackles in the nation coming out of high school and was a unanimous five-star recruit by nearly every major recruiting source. Rivals.com ranked him second only behind Cyrus Kouandjio, while ESPN.com had him ranked third behind Kouandjio and Christian Westerman.
La’el Collins had scholarship offers from nearly every major college around the nation, including Auburn, Florida State, and Southern California, but was ultimately an early commitment to LSU.
La’el Collins was one of the top offensive lineman in school history at LSU. He played in 45 games with 38 starts during his career as a Tiger. Collins played a total of 2,533 offensive snaps and had 222 ½ knockdowns in his four-year collegiate career.
In 2011, as a freshman, La’el Collins was recognized as a freshman All-American by CBSSports.com after his first season in college. He ended up seeing action in seven games as a true freshman, but didn’t have any starts. He saw his first action against Northwestern State, where he posted three knockdowns in 21 snaps. Collins finished his freshman year playing 46 snaps on the offensive line and posted five knockdowns.
The following season in 2012, Collins started 13 games at left guard. He led the team in total snaps (836) and knockdowns (64 ½). He made his first career start against North Texas where he accumulated three knockdowns in 36 offensive snaps. Collins was named honorable mention All-SEC by the Associated Press and earned SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week for his play against top-ranked Alabama, who they nearly upset.
As a junior in 2013, La’el Collins played 12 games at left tackle and earned second team All-SEC honors from the SEC Coaches. He played a total of 808 offensive snaps and accumulated 65 knockdowns. In his first career start at left tackle, he earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors in the season opener against TCU.
Collins decided to return for his senior season and started all 13 games at left tackle for the Tigers. He once again led the team in both offensive snaps (843) and knockdowns (88). La’el Collins earned second team All-America honors from USA Today and Associated Press, first-team All-SEC by the SEC Coaches and Associated Press, and was named the recipient of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which is presented to the top offensive lineman in the SEC as voted by the league’s coaches.
La’el Collins was only the sixth player in LSU history to win the Jacobs Blocking Trophy. He was also named permanent team captain and was the recipient of the Charles McClendon Award, which goes to the most outstanding player on the team.
2015 NFL Draft
La’el Collins was regarded as a surefire first-round draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and slotted to be selected in the top 10 by many draft analysts.
Circumstances out of his control caused him to slip in the draft because it was announced that the Louisiana State police had scheduled a talk with Collins in regards to the shooting death of a woman he had a previous relationship with. It was a historic and unprecedented draft day slide, especially considering the fact that Collins wasn’t even considered a suspect in the crime.
La’el Collins ended up going undrafted after his agent threatened that Collins would sit out the entire 2015 season and enter the 2016 NFL Draft if any team drafted him after the third round.
Collins signed with the Dallas Cowboys on May 7, 2015 after going undrafted and was rewarded with a fully guaranteed three-year contract and a $21,000 signing bonus.
La’el Collins played in 12 games at left guard for the Dallas Cowboys in his first year in the NFL and ended up starting 11 of those games.
Collins opened the season as a reserve guard, but ended up seeing extensive action in his second game for the Dallas Cowboys as a part of a rotation with Ronald Leary, who was battling an injury.
La’el Collins was named the starter for the third game and ended up passing Leary on the depth chart, but he wasn’t officially named the starting left guard until the week 6 bye.
He continued to remain the starter at left guard throughout the season, until the final game of the season against the Washington Redskins when he was declared inactive with a high ankle sprain.
Like many first-year players in the NFL, La’el Collins made plenty of rookie mistakes, but he also made plenty of highlight-reel worthy plays. The most memorable play he made was against the Seattle Seahawks, where he pancaked two different Seahawk defenders on one running play.
La’el Collins is looking to improve in his second season in the NFL and a full off-season will help improve the chemistry between Collins and his fellow linemen Tyron Smith, and Travis Frederick.
I wouldn’t be surprised if La’el Collins ends up being voted into his first Pro Bowl based on his 2016 performance at left guard for the Dallas Cowboys.
La’el Collins signed a three-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $1,599,500 with a $21,000 signing bonus for the Dallas Cowboys after going undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft. Collins will make an average of $533,167 per season. He is entering the second year of his three-year deal and will make $526,750 in 2016 and $616,750 in 2017.
The Dallas Cowboys will have a tough decision to make in regards to which offensive lineman they will be able to re-sign. Travis Frederick and Zack Martin are also both looking to earn long-term contracts with the Cowboys and it will be interesting to see if the organization can re-sign all three.
Cowboys Wishlist: 3 Things I Want to See in Kellen Moore’s Offense
The Dallas Cowboys offense will mostly remain the same in terms of players. However, a big change is coming with new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore taking over the talented unit. In a special edition of Cowboys Wishlist, I'll share the three big things I want to see in Moore's offense in 2019.
Let me know what you want to see in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Frequent Read Option
Despite Dak Prescott's skills as a runner, rarely did we see the Cowboys run read option plays. For a team that seems to have the perfect duo for these plays, they certainly seemed to have wasted it over the last few years. This is an offense that has plenty of talent to be struggling as much as they did in the red zone last year.
Imagine being concerned about Ezekiel Elliott getting the ball and Dak Prescott keeping it at the same time? Not to mention the play action threat with a group of receivers led by Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb... oh, and a veteran tight end in Jason Witten who might be older but whose hands are very reliable.
The Athletic's Bob Sturm pointed out Prescott's average of 4.46 yards per carry and 18 touchdowns in the red zone between 2016 and 2018. The league average for all players is 2.64 and there's no one close to over four yards and over 10 touchdowns in the league. Dak has been dangerous when using his legs and yet, the Cowboys haven't used the read option as much. I hope that changes with Kellen Moore taking over.
Wish #2: Use Tight Ends More
I'm still impressed by how little the Cowboys utilized their tight ends in 2018. In fact, as Bobby Belt noted on Twitter a few months ago, this has happened consistently in Scott Linehan's career.
One thing you consistently see when Scott Linehan takes over an offense is a drop in the starting tight end's production. Randy McMichael, Byron Chamberlain, and Jason Witten all saw drops in yards per catch, receptions per game, and yards per game once Linehan took over.
Last year, Blake Jarwin had only three games with more than three targets. In those games, he racked up 56, 45 and 119 yards. This makes me wonder if the real problem at tight end last season was more about how they were utilized rather than the players at the position.
With Jason Witten back, Jarwin and the future Hall of Famer could split the snaps. Hopefully, Kellen Moore gives them a more active role on the offense. I really think we'll see way more from them.
Wish #3: Pre-Snap Motion
Pre-snap motion is truly a thing of beauty. The simple fact of getting a player in motion before the ball is snapped can go a long way to keep a defense in its toes and cause confusion to set up a successful play. In Boise State, Moore ran an offense that heavily relied on pre-snap motions.
The first year offensive coordinator won't turn the Cowboys into the new L.A. Rams but he can add this kind of trickery to help Dallas take the next step offensively. Dak Prescott will be playing his fourth year of professional football and adding this to the offense will only help the young QB by making his reads even easier.
Why I’m Not Buying The Jason Witten Rejuvenation Story
Last week, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett made headlines with some quotes about the return of Jason Witten. Neither Garrett nor Witten tend to make headlines with their words often, but the two combined to do so with a quote this week.
“Yeah, absolutely. He’s been excited about every part of it ever since I met him and that hasn’t changed,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The work that he’s done in the weight room in the off-season program has been outstanding. His testing numbers and all of that are what they’ve been or even better. And he just has an unbelievable way about him. Tremendous passion for the game. And he demonstrates that every day. Witt looks good. He’s excited to be back and we’re certainly fortunate to have him back.” - Jason Garrett on Witten.
Multiple Cowboys' media outlets ran with these quotes, looking to show that the Cowboys have found a version of Jason Witten that they have not seen in quite some time. They are, publicly, stating that they believe a year away from the game did Witten some good, and that he will be a much healthier and fresher player in 2019 than he was back when he last played in 2017.
As a fan of the team, I sure hope this is the case. But as a realistic human being, I can't get behind this at all.
Jason Witten hasn't been very good for quite some time now. I know he's a Cowboy legend, and will forever be a fan favorite, but the facts are the facts. As a run blocker Witten has regressed greatly in his later years. More often it seemed he was re-adjusting his jersey after a missed block than he was making blocks to spring Ezekiel Elliott on the edge.
As a receiver, Witten's much slower than he used to be. And while he was never a blazer who relied on his speed to win, his lack of speed certainly holds him back in today's game. And if the Cowboys want to be multiple and versatile on offense, I'm not sure how a greatly-aged tight end helps them to do so.
He's still the smart, instinctive route runner he's always been, but at 37 years old what can we realistically expect from him?
I'll be honest, I'm very skeptical that Jason Witten is going to give the Cowboys anything in 2019. Maybe earlier in the season he will look better than expected, but can he withstand a full NFL season? It's impossible to say for sure now, but I'm absolutely not buying that he's rejuvenated or extra-fresh after a year off from football.
Connor Williams Hopes Added Weight, Experience Aids Him In 2019
Offensive lineman Connor Williams had himself an interesting start to his young career. The second round pick was expected to be a plug-and-play guard for the Cowboys, earning the starting left guard spot from just about the first day of training camp.
The results from Williams' play were mixed, however. At moments Connor Williams looked like his athletic, technically sound self, working well on the Cowboys outside zone runs. Other times, though, he was simply overpowered by bigger and stronger defensive tackles.
Williams lost his left guard spot due to injury late in the season, and when Xavier Su'a-Filo came in and played relatively well, fans soured a bit on the then-rookie lineman. Still there was no question that Williams was the better player between the two, and he rightfully started in both the Cowboys playoff games last season.
Now entering year two, and with third round pick Connor McGovern potentially competing for a guard spot and rumors of a move to right tackle swirling around him, Williams believes he's done enough to improve before his Sophomore year.
Connor Williams spoke to DallasCowboys.com, and gave some decent quotes on what his offseason preparation has looked like thus far. Williams emphasized that his main goal was to add strength and size, something he looks to have clearly done based on recent photographs.
“I think I’ve put myself in a good position. Now it’s just about refining the technique and feeling comfortable.” - Connor Williams
According to Williams he played at a "light 300" pounds in 2018, but is now tipping the scales at 315 pounds. That's quite the difference, especially considering that Williams carries the weight pretty well in his frame.
All Pro veteran guard Zack Martin has taken Williams under his wing, as the young lineman credits Martin for being his lifting partner this offseason.
Right tackle might be in Connor Williams' 2020 future, but as of now, he has to ready himself to compete at left guard against the heavier defensive tackles he once struggled with. It's very encouraging to see the progress he has made so far.
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