(Editor's Note: Over the next month, the staff of DallasCowboys.com is looking to answer the 20 biggest questions facing the team heading into 2021. Today, we'll debate the impact of tackles Tyron Smith and La'el Collins returning to the offensive line.)
FRISCO, Texas – Let's be clear: getting Dak back healthy is a big deal.
Prescott's return to the huddle as the starting quarterback is unquestionably the biggest addition the Cowboys could have made this offseason. But to fully realize their potential on offense, the Cowboys need a healthy season from left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle La'el Collins.
Both players are on track to be ready for the start of the season, but how will the rest of 2021 go? Our staff writers debate.
4) Can The Offensive Tackles Hold Up?
Mickey Spagnola: They had better. And why not? Tyron Smith and La'el Collins fixed what was ailing them last year. First Collins, dealing with hip problems. Finally placed on injured reserve Sept. 7 of last year after spending the majority of the offseason trying to rehab his problems. Then surgery. But tell you what, while he did not participate in any of the OTA and minicamp practices, he looked 100% ready to go from watching his rehab. Come on, he'll turn only 28 during training camp, about peak age for an offensive lineman, and let's remember after a stellar 2019 season at right tackle, Collins was poised to have a Pro Bowl season in 2020 before the hip gave in. And as for Smith, while this will be his 11th NFL season, he's only 30, still in his prime. And if we take him at his word, the season-ending neck surgery he had last year not only cleared up the severe pain in his neck, but also some of the nagging back issues he's been having. The Cowboys desperately need these two tackles at the top of their games.
David Helman: I've been bullish on these guys since they first got hurt, so I'm not about to back down after I've had a chance to see them work during OTAs. Tyron Smith and La'el Collins both look like healthy, motivated guys. It's pretty obvious they've been grinding this offseason, and I think it's going to pay dividends. Of course, you can't completely ignore injury concerns for two veterans playing such a physical position. But I think Smith and Collins are both going to play 13 or more games this year, and it's going to make a world of difference for this team.
Jonny Auping: I couldn't pretend to confidently make a medical prediction about Tyron Smith and La'el Collins. That said, I'm not sure I understand the logic behind the optimism. They are both coming off of significant injuries. I'm sure their surgeries addressed the issues, and the Cowboys have a great medical staff, but when you play offensive tackle in the NFL, the reality is that you're risking a potential injury every time you step on the field, and I think it's safe to say that serious hip and neck injuries only increase that possibility. I've heard people say that La'el and Tyron are "as tough as they come" but that's an antiquated perspective to me. It's not about toughness, and you don't want any players gritting through real injuries. I certainly don't think that they're going to miss a combined 20 games or anything. But if one of them misses 2-5 games it could be enough to hamstring an explosive offense. I'm obviously hoping for 17 games from them.