Injuries have been a fairly steady presence during La’el Collins‘ NFL career. Although Collins missed only one game from 2017-19, the Cowboys’ right tackle starter missed most of 2016 and all of last season. He is in jeopardy of missing the start of this year’s Dallas slate.
Collins has been out of practice since last week due to a neck issue, and Mike McCarthy expressed uncertainty regarding the talented blocker’s Week 1 status. Collins is in a “holding pattern” with his latest injury, per McCarthy.
The seventh-year lineman has fully recovered from the hip injury that knocked him out of the 2020 season, but the prospect of a backup Cowboys right tackle facing the Buccaneers is firmly in play because of what the Cowboys have called a neck stinger. Should Collins be unable to go, McCarthy said either free agent acquisition Ty Nsekhe or holdover Terence Steele would start, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter).
It would seem Nsekhe would receive the call, having signed to help the Cowboys at swing tackle after the team lost Collins before last season and Tyron Smith early in that disappointing campaign. Nsekhe, however, will turn 36 this season. Dallas signed the former Washington and Buffalo spot starter to a one-year, $1.75MM deal ($500K guaranteed); Steele is a second-year UDFA who graded as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-worst full-time tackle last season. Steele worked as Collins’ primary fill-in in 2020, starting 14 games.
Collins, 28, ended the 2019 season as one of the league’s top right tackles, having experienced a run of good health after missing 13 games in 2016 due to a toe malady. The Cowboys have given Collins two extensions, the most recent being a five-year, $50MM re-up in 2019. With Smith having not surpassed 13 games played since the 2015 season, the Cowboys are counting on Collins to return to full strength soon.