Mike McCarthy: Cowboys to ‘start the week’ with La’el Collins in bench role

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Surprise, surprise, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t been playing coy after all. Many eyebrows have been raised by fans as the front office and coaching staff have refused to utter the words most expected to hear over the last two weeks. After missing the last five games of the season due to a suspension for allegedly bribing a drug-testing official, starting right tackle La’el Collins will will have an uphill battle to return to the starting lineup.

Terence Steele has improved remarkably from his time replacing Collins during 2020, when the then-undrafted rookie free agent struggled mightily across 14 starts. He’s played much better, finding a comfort level most outside of the Dallas coaching staff did not see coming. He won the swing tackle job from veteran Ty Nsekhe in the offseason and for now at least is holding off the returning Collins.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said that as practice resumes on Wednesday, Steele will continue to run with the 1s, as Collins backs up both him and left guard Connor Williams.

Collins entered the league playing left guard before being moved outside to tackle after two seasons.

While Steele is ascending, Collins has certainly played better than Steele is playing now, but after missing five of the first six games and not playing in 2020 due to a hip injury that required surgery, Collins has opened the door for several things.

He reported to camp in 2020 badly out of shape and the team did not make the same supportive effort in his suspension appeal as they have done for another noteworthy player, Ezekiel Elliott back in 2017. Collins will apparently have to earn his way back into Dallas’ starting lineup instead of being handed the position.

The bye week certainly gave Dallas time to evaluate what they wanted to do with their offensive line. Connor Williams had a rough game in Week 6 against New England. While Collins had some signature highlight plays as a guard, he lost his starting job to Ron Leary in 2016 after he started the season with some major issues there before suffering injury.

He could still, however, prove to be a better option there than Williams, who receives a bad rap for normally more-than-adequate play at guard. Williams isn’t at the level of perennial Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, but he doesn’t play as horribly as many feel he does. That doesn’t mean that Dallas isn’t in a position to try and get the best five offensive linemen on the field.

That effort could also potentially lead to backup interior player Connor McGovern getting some snaps. He’s been placed at fullback and as a sixth lineman, but could challenge for play time with second-year center Tyler Biadasz.

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