FRISCO, Texas — A couple of familiar faces have returned for the Dallas Cowboys, namely La'el Collins and Damien Wilson, in what's become a bit of a class reunion ahead of the regular season finale against the Washington Commanders — a game that carries the weight of both the NFC East crown and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
Don't expect to see either on the field in Landover, though.
But let's talk about what you can expect from Collins and Wilson, as well as running back SaRodorick Thompson and wide receiver Racey McMath, two unfamiliar faces who'll join the former two on the Cowboys' practice squad.
Collins, who is back in the building following a brief hiatus that included a 2022 stint with the Cincinnati Bengals, gets an opportunity for redemption, and he couldn't be more thrilled to return to North Texas.
"I'm blessed," Collins said, via Instagram. "[I'll] give you everything in me. I love you."
He punctuated the post with "#HOME", for added oomph.
Only two seasons removed from the initial divorce and in a situation wherein the starting five is already effectively set in stone in front of Dak Prescott, Collins provides Dallas with much-needed depth on the offensive line but, more than that, he's a proven starter in the league — at multiple positions on the offensive line.
It should go without saying that the Cowboys have seen their fair share of shuffling within that unit in 2023, a game of musical chairs that would make the nearest grade school blush with jealousy, and it's helped to cost them both production in the run game and, at times, in pass protection (e.g., the loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 16).
Adding Collins back to the mix is neither an indication of a long-term absence to come for Tyler Smith (torn plantar fascia) nor a warning shot to Terence Steele, so go ahead and put those engagement farm-fueled rumors to bed. It's more of a decision to bolster the swing tackle position after the aforementioned loss to the Dolphins, wherein Dak Prescott was pressured on 45 percent of his dropbacks — often on the blindside.
But it is good to know that, in a pinch, Collins can slide inside to left guard where he began his career and ascended to the role of starter before being moved to right tackle.
T.J. Bass has been more than solid behind Tyler Smith, though, so pencil Collins in as depth at tackle only, barring multiple injuries that require another game of musical chairs.
As for Wilson, he rejoins a linebackers room that looks wildly different than when he was in Dallas — his initial stint ending in 2018. It's also one that recently parted ways with Rashaan Evans, the only other true linebacker on the active roster not named Damone Clark, and will be expected to provide both depth and mentoring to Clark and Markquese Bell, among others.
Should he be elevated, the Cowboys will look to him for special teams production as well, and that's something he's very familiar with. He delivered more than 1,300 special teams reps for Dallas from 2015 through 2018, and another 211 snaps on that unit for the Carolina Panthers in 2022.
So, again, he's familiar with that responsibility, as well as being asked to step into a starting role from time to time; having more experience doing so than Buddy Johnson, as one example, who is the only other linebacker on the practice squad other than Malik Jefferson.
That brings us to SaRodorick Thompson and Racey McMath, who enter the facility in what can only be described as a bit of a cleansing of the practice squad. Thompson will now compete with Malik Davis for the right to be elevated in a pinch, but his signing doesn't preclude a possible signing of Dalvin Cook, assuming Cook clears waivers and chooses to make Dallas a love interest.
Rico Dowdle is set to return from his one-game absence due to a nagging ankle injury, and Tony Pollard is 100 percent healthy, so it's truly the RB3 role that's up for grabs — especially with Deuce Vaughn now on injured reserve — though you can't discount Hunter Luepke as an option there, as far as the active roster goes.
Thompson brings the added motivation of being an Irving, TX native who attended school at Texas Tech and would love nothing more than to make an impact for his literal home team.
Racey McMath, aside from having one of the best names to ever grace an NFL roster, will fill the practice squad role previously occupied by Martavis Bryant. Things didn't work out as intended for the latter after weeks of coaching and development, and the Cowboys need to enter the postseason with only the best possible options for depth at each position.
Their cup currently runneth over at wide receiver, but you can never have enough quality ones on the roster, and they feel McMath — a former sixth-round pick of the Titans out of LSU — is a 6-foot-2, 210 pound (ish) wideout with plenty of speed and built similarly to Bryant, which is telling of what the Cowboys are looking for there.
In all, having ushered in four players and sent four out of the door, it's two quality and familiar additions and two promising young talents who can, at worst, be developed for possible futures deals in the near future.
All told, the Cowboys have been very, very busy fine tuning their roster ahead of not only the regular season finale, but also going into a tournament that carries no shortage of pressure on McCarthy and Co. to produce a deep playoff run.