ARLINGTON, Texas – One week after making his first appearance, rookie guard La'el Collins will make his first career start for the Cowboys on Sunday against Atlanta.
Collins is the next man up for Ron Leary, who is missing his second-consecutive game with a groin strain. The Cowboys designated Leary as one of their seven inactive players, along with Matt Cassel, Christine Michael, Geoff Swaim, Dez Bryant, Randy Gregory and Jeremy Mincey.
Most of those names shouldn't be surprising, given that Bryant, Gregory and Mincey were all ruled out on Friday. Bryant is still rehabbing a broken foot and Gregory is recovering from a high ankle sprain. Mincey missed Thursday's practice with an illness, but that illness was classified as a concussion on Friday, ending his chances of playing against the Falcons.
Matt Cassell was acquired from the Bills in a trade on Tuesday evening and has had a limited amount of time to learn the Cowboys' playbook. While the veteran gets up to speed, the Cowboys will go forward with Kellen Moore as their backup quarterback behind Brandon Weeden.
The Cowboys signed Moore after the preseason, when he was released by the Detroit Lions. The Boise State standout is in his fourth NFL season but has yet to appear in a regular season game. He'll be the first off the bench if something should happen to Weeden, who is making his second-ever start for Dallas.
Collins got extensive playing time last week against Philadelphia, but he split the left guard reps with veteran Mackenzy Bernadeau – who started. It remains to be seen if the two will split reps once again on Sunday, but at the very least it will be Collins to begin the afternoon.
Starting for Mincey at right defensive end will be Jack Crawford, who has had to serve a utility role while the Cowboys cope with various injuries. Crawford typically shifts between left defensive end and defensive tackle, but the Cowboys are without all three of their preferred options at right defensive end – Mincey and Gregory are hurt, while Greg Hardy still has two games remaining on his NFL suspension. Crawford has three tackles and two quarterback pressures on the year.
Christine Michael will be inactive for the third-straight week, as the Cowboys are currently carrying three active running backs and a fullback. Swaim was active against the Eagles while James Hanna recovered from a knee injury, but Hanna's return this week means the rookie is once again inactive.