La’el Collins, Connor Williams back at Cowboys practice as O-line shuffle continues

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One of the few things Cowboys fans were able to count on in 2020 was not being able to count on knowing who would play where along the offensive line. The team went through 15 unique combinations up front before the Thanksgiving Day game even kicked off.

Getting the front five back was one of the major storylines in Dallas this offseason, but now there’s already a script change as Zack Martin’s positive COVID test almost certainly takes him out of the season opener in Tampa. But the team did get some good news on the O-line, as La’el Collins and Connor Williams returned to practice on Sunday.

Collins, of course, missed the entire 2020 season with surgery meant to correct a nagging hip issue. Supposedly back in full force this year and looking noticeably leaner after a grueling rehab, the 28-year-old tackle talked openly about having plenty “left in the tank” for the upcoming campaign.

But the LSU product left practice early on August 18th with a neck stinger. He came back the following day and even played in the preseason loss to Houston two days after that. Another neck stinger on August 27th, though, forced him off the practice field once again.

As recently as Friday, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy was using terms like “holding pattern” in describing Collins’s playing status. But his return to practice just 96 hours before a visit to the defending Super Bowl champs bodes well for his chances to hold down the fort at right tackle.

Connor Williams rejoins the team, too, having just been activated off the Reserve/COVID list, where he had been since testing positive for the virus August 25th.

The other Connor, guard Connor McGovern, will likely draw the straw of stepping into Martin’s spot Thursday night against the likes of Buccaneers defensive linemen Vita Vea and Ndamakong Suh.

“We will continue to work the combinations, but Connor McGovern will take the majority of the reps at right guard,” McCarthy said regarding the team’s Sunday practice session.

Working the combinations. Expect the Cowboys to fall into a very well-practiced routine of shuffling players along the line in the days leading up to Thursday’s game and perhaps even moving puzzle pieces around during the Week 1 contest.

“I mean, this is the climate that we’re in,” McCarthy said recently as the COVID numbers in the Dallas locker room climbed. “The great thing is we have experience at it.”

That, they do.

The Cowboys had hoped, though, that they wouldn’t have to fall back on that experience for the very first game of the season.

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