It has been a few days and the biggest news about the Dallas Cowboys remains the same, it revolves around La’el Collins and his best fit on the offensive line. Should he line up at right tackle or left guard when training camp comes around? After all, isn’t that when it will matter for real?
The trickle-down effect of Collins playing either spot will be felt, but remember, either way Dallas will have two new starters on the line. However, throughout all the talk about which position is the right fit for Collins and the Cowboys, one sentiment from many outsiders remains constant: the team’s offensive line won’t be as good in 2017.
Pardon me for taking a different approach, but I’m more of a glass half-full kinda guy. Truth is, the unit actually might be better than they were last year.
The object is always to get the most talented players on the field and La’el Collins is a big step in that direction. Doug Free was a better player than many want to give him credit for, but he did have some issues in the passing game last season and Collins has the potential to be a better tackle. Potential is the key word, but since we’re being optimistic, he has the youth and athletic ability to be a dominant player. Collins doesn’t have the experience of Doug Free, but he’s got a pretty good base from playing tackle at LSU and he has played at a high level in the NFL during his first two years.
With Collins at right tackle, the left guard spot could be taken over by Jonathan Cooper. Again, if you’re trying to get the best talent on the field, the former first-round pick would go a long way to doing that. Cooper has had his issues finding his groove since he entered the league, but he has flashed some skills and he now gets to work with Frank Pollack, who is one of the better line coaches in the business. He’s still young and has time to figure it out, especially playing in-between two All-Pro players in Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.
Speaking of Smith, remember that he played hurt almost all of 2016 with neck and back issues that zapped him of some of his ability and strength. With Smith returning to full health this year, expect him to get back to a more dominant form in 2017.
If La’el Collins can play up to the level that his pedigree suggests and Cooper proves to be a capable addition at left guard, the Cowboys could very well have a better offensive line in 2017 than they had last season.
Of course, this could be too much optimism and the unit might take a step back as many suggest. However, the talent of the players who will be taking over for Doug Free and Ronald Leary suggests the Cowboys might get better results.
There’s no need for pessimism, especially in May.
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