The retirement of right tackle Doug Free was a bit of a shock to the Dallas Cowboys. He had another year left on his deal and the team talked about expecting him to return even after Free mentioned he might walk away. The move left the team without a true presence at right tackle and led many to question who would be the man to take over for Free?
Apparently, the best guess of many was wrong. According to reports from the weekend, it has been La’El Collins who will get the first crack at Free’s spot at the end of the offensive line. Collins said he was told to attack right tackle at “full speed.”
This is a surprise because Chaz Green appeared to be the man the Cowboys had tapped to be the eventual replacement for Free and the team expressed that nothing had changed with Collins’ position earlier in the off-season. Green was the swing tackle last season and showed well playing for Tyron Smith on the left side for a few games in 2016. However, the third year tackle hasn’t been able to stay healthy and it looks like the Cowboys are looking for someone who has more availability that Green.
Collins now appears to be the leader in the clubhouse, even though he played guard for his first two years in the league after lining up at tackle at LSU. He is also a better prospect than Green and the Cowboys are attempting to get the best players on the field. Collins definitely has the talent and athleticism to excel at right tackle, so it could pay big dividends.
The move also means there are other moving parts along the offensive line. If Collins starts at right tackle, Dallas needs someone to fill in for the left guard spot that Ronald Leary vacated. The Cowboys signed Jonathan Cooper late last year and he appears to be the best option if Collins moves to right tackle permanently.
This is not a decision the Cowboys made willy-nilly. The team likely spent plenty of time going over their options along the offensive line and deduced they would rather not put their faith in an oft-injured player like Green over a player who was considered a first round pick until some horrid rumors surfaced that weren’t true. Getting the best players on the field would also include Cooper, who was also a high first round pick in 2013.
It’s important to note that it’s way too early to decide on the starting lineup right now, but it sure looks like the Cowboys prefer Collins as their starting right tackle over Green or Byron Bell, who they picked up in free agency. It is a change in philosophy since the team played Collins at guard for his first two seasons, but doing their due diligence is a smart move from the coaches.
If La’el Collins can play right tackle like the player he was projected to be a few years ago, the Cowboys have themselves a very good replacement for Free. It looks like that’s exactly what the team is expecting.
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