Terence Steele

Cowboys Place OT Terence Steele On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Cowboys are dealing with a bit of a COVID problem. Per Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, the club has placed right tackle Terence Steele on the reserve/COVID-19 list after a positive test. As Watkins’ colleague, Michael Gehlken, tweets, Dallas’ O-line coach Joe Philbin, O-line assistant Jeff Blasko, offensive assistant Scott Tolzien, and strength and conditioning coaches Harold Nash, Jr., Cedric Smith, and Kendall Smith are also on the list following positive tests.

Neither Steele nor the staffers (with the possible exception of Cedric Smith) will be available for the Cowboys’ game against the Saints on Thursday. La’el Collins will get the start at RT in Steele’s absence.

Steele, a 2020 UDFA, served as Collins’ primary replacement last season, which Collins missed due to hip surgery. This year, Collins was hit with a five-game PED suspension, and starting left tackle Tyron Smith has missed time with an ankle injury. So Steele has played both LT and RT in 2021, and Pro Football Focus’ metrics paint him as the 53rd-best offensive tackle out of 81 qualifiers.

To combat further spread of the virus, the Cowboys will be working virtually through Monday and will have daily testing through Tuesday. The good news is that WR Amari Cooper, who has missed Dallas’ last two games due to a positive COVID test of his own, should be back in action for the Saints game, as Watkins writes.

The Cowboy’s other top wideout, CeeDee Lamb, who missed the club’s Thanksgiving loss to the Raiders due to a concussion, is also expected to clear protocols and suit up against New Orleans (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com).

La’el Collins To Play Reserve Role Coming Off Suspension

La’el Collins‘ five-game PED suspension has elapsed, and the high-end right tackle returned to practice this week. But the Cowboys are not giving Collins his starting job back — at least not yet.

Terence Steele will remain Dallas’ starting right tackle this week, Mike McCarthy said Thursday. A former UDFA, Steele served as Collins’ primary right tackle fill-in last season — which Collins missed due to hip surgery — and returned to that role after Collins’ PED ban became official this year.

McCarthy said Collins will play a swing role to start out post-suspension, playing behind Steele and working as a reserve left guard, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. While Collins began his pro career at left guard, he has been Dallas’ top right tackle since the 2017 season. Collins, 28, is signed to a $10MM-per-year extension that runs through 2024.

Obviously, LC has position flexibility,” McCarthy said, adding that he needs to see Collins go through practices before reinstalling him as a starter. “We are going to start the week with Terence at right tackle. So LC gives us some great competition in there. We are going to try to work him as much as possible.”

Pro Football Focus graded Collins as one of the NFL’s best right tackles in 2019, but he has missed 21 of the Cowboys’ past 22 games. After rating Steele as one of the league’s worst starting O-linemen last season, PFF slots the Texas Tech product 27th among tackles this year. Whichever way the Cowboys end up going at right tackle, the player that ends up as the reserve stands to create some plus depth for the NFC East leaders.

Cowboys Move Micah Parsons To DE

The Cowboys could not resist selecting Micah Parsons with the No. 12 overall pick of the 2021 draft, despite their existing depth at linebacker. Parsons was widely regarded as the best off-ball LB in this year’s class, but recent losses along Dallas’ D-line have forced the team to move its top draft choice to DE, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes.

The club’s top pass rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence, will be sidelined for the next six to eight weeks due to a broken foot, and fellow DE Randy Gregory has found himself on the reserve/COVID-19 list, leading to an immediate need for reinforcements. Luckily, one of Parsons’ key attributes is his ability to get after opposing quarterbacks, and the Cowboys trained him as a designated pass rusher during offseason workouts.

Depending on how long Parsons remains at defensive end, and how successful he is in his new role, the transition could theoretically impact Dallas’ future plans. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is eligible for free agency following the 2021 campaign since the Cowboys declined his fifth-year option, and Gregory is also in his platform year. Dallas does not plan to entertain extension talks with either player during the season. Plus, free agent acquisition Keanu Neal is being deployed as a linebacker, and LB Jaylon Smith is signed though 2025, though the Cowboys could get out of his contract after this season if they choose.

In short, there are a lot of ways Dallas could go with respect to its front seven. Obviously, the expectation is that Parsons will eventually move back to the position that he was drafted to play, but a successful stint as a DE could change things and will only enhance his value.

In related news, Terence Steele is expected to get the nod at right tackle while La’el Collins is serving his five-game suspension (Twitter link via Todd Archer of ESPN.com).

Cowboys’ La’el Collins Uncertain For Week 1

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.

Cowboys To Start Zack Martin At RT

The Cowboys’ offensive line has been hit hard by injury this year, which is one of the many reasons why the team has limped to a 2-7 start. Fans and pundits alike have called for Dallas to kick stud right guard Zack Martin out to right tackle to help stabilize the unit, and head coach Mike McCarthy has finally seen the light.

As Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network was first to report, Martin will start at RT today for the Cowboys’ matchup with the Vikings (Twitter link). That will force rookie Terence Steele, who has started all nine games for the club this year, to the bench. Though it might be expected for a first-year UDFA, Steele has appeared to be in over his head, and Pro Football Focus ranks him as the worst offensive tackle out of 78 qualified players this season.

So, as Jon Machota of The Athletic tweets, the team will line up Cameron Erving at LT, Connor Williams at LG, Joe Looney at C, and Connor McGovern at RG. This will mark McGovern’s second start of his career.

Despite the Cowboys’ poor record, the club still has a shot to win the incredible-as-it-is-inept NFC East. Backup QB Andy Dalton, who has dealt with a concussion and COVID-19 in the past few weeks, will return to the field this afternoon in a must-win contest, and McCarthy — three weeks after dismissing a Martin move to RT as “fantasy football nonsense” (Twitter link via Machota) — will shake up Dalton’s protection.

As Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News observes, this will be the first time since December 2013 — Martin’s senior season at Notre Dame — that Martin will get a start at tackle (Twitter link).

Tyron Smith Done For Season

Oct 9: Smith will undergo neck surgery and will miss the rest of the season, head coach Mike McCarthy announced this morning (Twitter link via Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). However, he is expected to make a full recovery and plans to be back in action for Week 1 of the 2021 season (Twitter link via Gehlken).

Oct. 8: Tyron Smith played all 82 of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps in their shootout loss to the Browns, but the neck injury that caused the All-Pro left tackle to miss the previous two games continues to be a concern.

The Cowboys are considering placing Smith on IR and are not certain he can continue to play this season, Ed Werder of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Smith indeed suffered a setback with his neck and is gathering medical information. He also is considering the prospect of the injury shutting him down for the rest of the season, Jane Slater and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com report (on Twitter).

This would certainly be a major loss for a Cowboys team that has already seen right tackle La’el Collins shelved for the season. Travis Frederick‘s offseason retirement would leave Zack Martin alone among Dallas’ All-Pro blocking coalition responsible for helping the respective rises of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

The Cowboys are also down center Joe Looney, who left Sunday’s game after the first play. The team confirmed its starting center is dealing with an MCL issue and will miss time. As for Smith, he has gone to seven straight Pro Bowls and joined Martin on the 2010s’ All-Decade team. The 2011 first-round pick has never missed more than three games in a season.

UDFAs Brandon Knight and Terence Steele are expected to be the Cowboys’ left and right tackles, respectively, for the foreseeable future, the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken tweets. A Smith IR stay would mean at least three missed games, pushing his total to a minimum of five absences this season. Even if that ends up being the Cowboys’ move, their offensive line has run into the kind of trouble that it has not faced in many years.