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How Might The Cowboys Replace La'el Collins?


FRISCO, Texas – Mike McCarthy wasn't quite ready to talk about La'el Collins' status, let alone speculate on the guys who might replace him.

That's not too surprising, given that the news of Collins' five-game suspension dropped on the NFL world just 90 minutes before the Cowboys' head coach spoke to reporters.

Fortunately for McCarthy, the Cowboys are entering into a long weekend, which gives him a benefit not often seen in this league: some extra time to weigh his options.

"Obviously, playing on Thursday night gives us some time," McCarthy said Friday. "The players are off, the mandatory three days off. So we'll bring the players in on Monday, we'll spend the morning working on Tampa and then we'll spend the afternoon working on the Chargers."

The Los Angeles Chargers have yet to play their first game, but by the time the Cowboys meet again on Monday, they'll have a full game of tape from L.A.'s season opener against Washington. Most notably for a team that looks to be without its starting right tackle for five weeks, they'll have tape of Chargers Pro Bowl pass rusher Joey Bosa.

McCarthy's not about to divulge the game plan for dealing with Bosa, period – let alone nine days before kickoff. But it was interesting to hear him work through the possible process for replacing Collins in the starting lineup.

On one hand, he did allow that he'd like to continuing working with the primary two backups who have split tackle reps since the start of training camp, Ty Nsekhe and Terence Steele. But when he was asked about the possibility of kicking Zack Martin out to right tackle, he noted that Connor McGovern played well in Thursday night's loss to Tampa Bay.

"We're eyes wide open -- you have to be, because things happen," he said. "We want to be able to have as many combinations as possible."

It'd probably be a mistake to infer too much from that answer. Despite a rash of injuries along the offensive line, the Cowboys were reluctant to move Martin to tackle last fall, hesitating to make the switch until their Week 11 win against Minnesota.

They've also worked Nsekhe and Steele extensively to insure themselves against losing both Collins and Tyron Smith. As McCarthy noted during his press conference, both players have spent the last six weeks working on both sides of the line.

"Ty and Terence have both worked left and right tackle, so I feel very comfortable playing with those guys," he said.

Again, it's probably too early to assume what that means. At least unlike last year, the Cowboys have a handful of experienced options to fill Collins' place. Nsekhe has made 17 spot starts during the course of his career, while last year's injuries gave Steele the opportunity to make 14 of his starts.

Even Martin, who had previously never played an NFL game at tackle, got three opportunities to try his hand at it last year.

The Cowboys do have the benefit of time, but they also have options. It'll be interesting to see how many of them are on the table next week.

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