La’el Collins exited the Bengals’ win over the Patriots yesterday, and that game will prove to be his last in 2022. The veteran right tackle has been diagnosed with a torn ACL and MCL, per Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link).
The 29-year-old was feared to have suffered a significant knee injury based on how he left the game yesterday. After initial testing, however, it was believed that his ACL was intact. That would have left open the possibility for a return later in the season, with his kneecap thought to be the primary cause for concern. Instead, his season is now over, and Conway adds that a seven-month recovery timetable is expected.
Collins established himself as an effective tackle during five of his six seasons spent with the Cowboys. That tenure included two straight campaigns with PFF grades in the 80s, making him an attractive free agent this past offseason. The former UDFA signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Bengals as the reigning AFC champions set about reinforcing their offensive line through a number of moves.
Collins came with red flags about availability, however, dating back to his time in Dallas. Injuries – including a lost campaign in 2020 – as well as suspensions led to significant missed time at various points of his career. He had played every game before yesterday’s injury, though, which had been an encouraging sign for the Bengals’ offense. Collins has been charged with eight sacks allowed by PFF, leading to an overall grade of 57.8 – a steep decline from his ratings during his past three healthy seasons.
As the LSU product turns his attention to the lengthy rehab required of him, the Bengals will likely turn to Hakeem Adeniji in his place. The 2020 sixth-rounder logged 64 snaps in relief of Collins yesterday, marking his highest usage this season. He had previously started 15 of 24 games across the past two seasons, including all nine of the contests he played last year, when he played exclusively at right guard.
That spot is now manned by Alex Cappa, another big-ticket acquisition from the spring. He, Collins and center Ted Karras have helped the Bengals put together the fifth-ranked total and scoring offense in the league. The unit has seen a number of absences this year – including, most notably, star wideout Ja’Marr Chase – but this news marks the latest blow for the AFC North leaders.