La’el Collins Suspension
It’s likely you forgot about this, but it goes to show just how crazy this season was regarding drama. The right tackle didn’t play all of 2020 after nursing a hip injury, which unsurprisingly came with more drama attached. After not playing for an entire year, the coaching staff and front office were hoping to see Collins jump out of the gate continuing his great form of 2019.
It only took one game before everything was put on pause…
Original reports were Collins had failed to show up for multiple drug tests and was slapped with a five-game suspension. With Zack Martin having to sit the first week of the season due to Covid-19, this felt like another slap in the face. What we didn’t realize was that Collins was originally sentenced to a two-game suspension and had appealed the punishment. As the research went deeper, Collins allegedly bribed teammates to vouch for him suggesting he got regularly drug tested and as a result was handed the five-game suspension.
At this point, Cowboys fans were dealing with rolling slaps to the face.
The Cowboys had a contingency plan at right tackle with second-year player Terence Steele. This worked well for them as Steele trained with offensive linemen guru Duke Mayweather over the offseason and had shown noticeable improvement immediately. In fact, he played well enough to skew the perception of his play amongst fans as they clamored to keep Steele in the starting lineup even once Collins returned from suspension.
The coaching staff, in fact, did do this and it took until week 13 before Collins was the starting right tackle for the Cowboys on a continuous basis. Joe Philbin and company played out this position fine, but then they decided to play musical chairs with the rest of the offensive line.
When Tyron Smith got injured against Minnesota, the coaching staff moved Terence Steele to left tackle, promoting La’el Collins back to his original spot. Steele had his worst game of the season the following week against the Denver Broncos. Things got better against the Atlanta Falcons, but then the coaching staff decided to replace Connor Williams with Connor McGovern at left guard after his holding penalties were “seriously” starting to affect the flow of the offense.
So McGovern’s first start at left guard came against the angry Kansas City Chiefs defense next to… Terence Steele and an improving Tyler Biadasz. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t very good, and unfortunately, it didn’t stop at that game. McGovern started the next three games and was so bad the coaching staff had no choice but to return to Connor Williams. Pretty immediately the team showed an improvement in the run game even in a stretch where they clearly weren’t at their best.
Within all this, the team tried to bring back Tyron Smith early on multiple occasions as Smith missed weeks 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, and 18. I understand Tyron Smith is still a very good left tackle, but it might help him and the team’s long-term future if they just let him set for more sustained periods of time so he isn’t constantly having to miss time throughout the course of the season?
This coaching staff kept trying different combinations within the offensive line and it hurt them so badly in the playoffs when they didn’t execute at their best against the ferocious San Francisco 49ers four-man front. However, none of this might have started had La’el Collins had just shown up to the mandatory drug tests…