Dallas Cowboys reminder: La’el Collins is a far better OT than OG

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

With the recent improvement from Terence Steele at OT and the recent struggles of Connor Williams at OG, Dallas Cowboys fans are eager to solve Dallas’ problem on the offensive line. Getting the best five linemen on the field is a noble endeavor, even if it is oversimplifying a fairly nuanced situation.

One of the more popular solutions floating around Cowboys Nation is moving starting right tackle, La’el Collins, to left guard. This would open a spot at right tackle for the emerging Terence Steele and bump Connor Williams to the bench in the process. This obviously operates under the assumption that Tyron Smith reclaims the left tackle role and all else remains stable down the line.

To many, this solves the problem at hand and gets the best five linemen on the field at the same time. To others this inefficiently reshuffles the deck and maybe even benches two of the best five linemen in the process.

La’el Collins is on the cusp of elite RT play for the Dallas Cowboys, a status he’s never approached as a guard.

Moving an elite player out of his primary position just so he can be pretty good somewhere else is not usually a great idea. It’s why Dallas didn’t move Zack Martin earlier in the year and it’s why they don’t want to move Collins inside now.

In his last full season played, La’el Collins was in elite company at tackle. He was among the best in run-blocking and pass-protecting. His blend of athleticism and power made him a weapon in both dropping into pass sets and run-blocking in space. He ended the season as the 5th rated tackle in the NFL. Not just among right tackles but all tackles. It’s a level he’s never even approached as an NFL guard.

Dallas Cowboys fans think romantically of the years Collins was a guard, but we seem to forget he struggled fairly consistently. As hard as it may be to hear, he struggled even more than Connor Williams is right now. Collins may look big like a guard but he’s built to play tackle. He was an elite tackle at LSU and he’s on the cusp of being elite right now in Dallas. Why move him?

When left on an island, Steele is a liability. Kellen Moore’s entire offense has to adapt for Steele because he requires constant chipping from either the RBs or the TEs.

The other factor to consider is how much help the Dallas Cowboys have to roll Terence Steele’s way. When left on an island, Steele is a liability. Kellen Moore’s entire offense has to adapt for Steele because he requires constant chipping from either the RBs or the TEs. Collins doesn’t require that.

The other thing to consider is for as improved as Tyler Biadasz has been these past few weeks at center, he’s still probably not as good of an offensive lineman overall as Connor McGovern is (although I don’t think McGovern would be a better center). And even with the windfall of penalties this season, nearly respected graders will agree Connor Williams is a better guard than Terence Steele is a tackle.

So if the goal is to start your best five offensive linemen then Terence Steele and Tyler Biadasz should probably be on the bench. But like Mike McCarthy has said before, this isn’t Madden. You can’t just plug-and-play your best five and expect it to work out.

We’ve seen McGovern play left guard and center and far better at RG. That’s why he hasn’t replaced anyone. We’ve also seen La’el Collins play guard and he’s far better at OT. It’s not as simple as just starting your best five (if you can even agree on your best five) because all of them are dramatically different in different roles across the line.

Moving Collins underestimates how good La’el is at tackle and how average he was at guard. It also ignores the number of resources Kellen Moore has to roll Terence Steele’s way to make him an effective pass protector.

None of this is meant to slander Terence Steele either. The kid stepped up huge last week and has been an amazing asset for the team this season. Hopefully he’ll have a bright future here in Dallas down the road. But he’s just not anywhere near La’el or Tyron as an NFL tackle right now and odds are he never will be. Again, that’s ok because those two players are elite and one is even a first ballot Hall of Famer. Let’s keep our expectations realistic for the undrafted second year tackle, shall we?

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At the end of the day we need to pump the breaks on all the mixing and matching. Perhaps Dallas will get sick of Connor Williams’ endless penalties. And perhaps they do replace him with McGovern or Collins. But that’s not an optimal solution and has to be seen as a last resort, not a proactive plan of action.

  • Published on 11/17/2021 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 11/17/2021 at 16:10 PM