As Cowboys Consider La'el Collins At RT, Goal Is To Play O-Line's Best Five

GRAPEVINE, Texas – When the topic of the offensive line came up at the Cowboys' Annual Golf Classic Wednesday afternoon, the clearest message from both Jerry and Stephen Jones was less about fit and more about who is the best.

"You want to get your very best on the field at the same time," Jerry Jones said.

The Cowboys are looking to fill the void at right tackle left by Doug Free's retirement. La'el Collins, who played left guard before missing most of last season with a left toe injury, says he's been working exclusively at right tackle as the Cowboys continue Phase 2 of the voluntary offseason program.

On Wednesday, head coach Jason Garrett was hesitant to make any big proclamations regarding the offensive line, but seemed to confirm that Collins as a right tackle option was part of their current instincts to, as Stephen Jones would later say, "have your best five guys out there."

"[Collins] is working that right tackle spot right now," Garrett said. "Jonathan Cooper is working that left guard spot. Again, it's really early. Those guys will have a chance to show us what we're capable of doing. We'll see over time who's the best and who fits where."

Though he has never done it at the professional level, Collins played two years of left tackle in college at LSU. Other candidates at right tackle include 2015 third-round pick Chaz Green and five-year veteran Byron Bell, who signed a one-year deal this offseason.

The Cowboys signed Cooper near the end of the 2016 season and then re-signed the former top-10 pick to a one-year deal this offseason. If Collins moves out to right tackle, Cooper is a candidate to play left guard now that Ronald Leary has left for the Denver Broncos.

The Cowboys have managed to have arguably the best offensive line in football the past few years and that's with having to deal with the inevitable injuries that come up at those positions. Wednesday, Jerry Jones stressed that position flexibility is something they value highly in offensive linemen so that they are prepared can handle unique circumstances.

The Cowboys didn't sign Collins to play tackle, but they likely considered his ability to potentially do it if needed when they signed him in 2015.

"His skillset really matches right tackle characteristics," Jones said. "He's very powerful. He's fortunate. He's does have the ability to play both positions. I think just his athletic ability; his ability to have the size he's got and move it around makes him a very exceptional talent."

Collins himself mentioned that he's really just excited to contribute after recovering from a frustrating injury last season.

"Any opportunity I get to be on the field and go against anybody I'm excited about," Collins said.

He also mentioned that there are definitely some aspects of the position that will take some getting used to, which is why the Cowboys are exploring the possibility as early as May, so Collins can get plenty of reps.

"I think the biggest difference is at guard you have guys on both sides of you," he said. "You have a tackle and a center. But at right tackle, you're on an island."

A switch to a new position is a challenge Collins is ready to meet. After stepping outside of his comfort zone and playing a round of golf, though, Collins probably won't be switching sports anytime soon.

"Luckily, that's not how I feed my family," Collins joked.

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