Offensive Tackle La’el Collins will miss at least two more games after the Dallas Cowboys placed him on Injured Reserve prior to the start of the regular season. Under the adjusted CBA for the 2020 campaign, players need to be on IR for at least three weeks instead of the usual eight. However, that’s only a minimum. As the Cowboys prepare to face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, there’s no telling when Collins will be back.
His absence was felt on week 1 when undrafted rookie Terence Steele took over for him as the starting right tackle.
The undrafted 23-year-old from Texas Tech surprised Cowboys Nation by making the 53-man roster thanks to a strong training camp. But the biggest surprise came when reports emerged what it would be him and not Cam Erving replacing La’el Collins in the season opener.
Steele seemingly had a strong first half and even a strong third quarter. Nothing spectacular, of course, but for an undrafted rookie who was supposed to be a backup, it wasn’t bad. However, on the team’s final drive, Steele had a rough time keeping the Rams off of Dak Prescott.
Even with a decent start, Pro Football Focus graded him as the second-worst offensive tackle of week one.
Cowboys RT Terrence Steele graded out as the second-worst offensive tackle in Week 1 (min 25 snaps). He finished Week 1 with a grade of 49.8 via @PFF
While calling a week 2 matchup a “must-win game” is certainly an overreaction, with the Cowboys facing the Seattle Seahawks on week three, starting the season 0-2 could spell trouble for the team. Adjustments can’t come soon enough.
Which brings up the question, is it time for Dallas to shake up things on the offensive line?
If the team tries to get its best five players out on the field without looking for outside help in free agency or in the trade market, pushing Connor Williams to right tackle shouldn’t be out of the question. When the front office drafted Williams out of Texas, his position flex was a strong selling point.
“We feel like he can move out there,” said Stephen Jones in 2019 when asked about Williams potentially playing at right tackle.
In Dane Brugler’s scouting report for Connor Williams, Brugler mentions his capability of playing as a tackle on Sundays. “[…] his sophomore tape showed a capable NFL starter at tackle and NFL teams will need to trust the 2016 tape to draft him in round one.”
Replacing Williams at left guard wouldn’t be too much of an issue after the Cowboys added Connor McGovern in 2019. McGovern was sidelined all of last year due to injury but he got plenty of snaps on training camp as Williams recovered from injury.
Although questions on Williams’ capacity to play right tackle, one has to wonder if it’d be worse than what the Cowboys can get from Steele or Brandon Knight, who is expected to be active on gameday.
There’s one big con to this plan the Cowboys need to consider, though.
How long will it take Collins to come back? If it’s a long period of time, I don’t see why the Cowboys don’t try to shake things up to get the best five on the playing field.
On the other hand, if Collins is set to return after missing the minimum three weeks of action, is moving Williams to a different position only to move him back to guard later worth it? There’s a world of difference between playing left guard and playing right tackle, and the in-season adjustment could negatively affect Williams’ performance for a handful of weeks.
Only the Cowboys know Collins’ timetable for a return. Here’s hoping that they find a way to deal with his absence in the meantime. I believe they shouldn’t be afraid to shake things up.