While free agency officially begins in March, roster turnover isn't too far away. The Cowboys will indeed add and presumably release players, along with letting some go without a new contract.
However, the majority of the 2018 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.
Today, we continue the series with defensive tackle Maliek Collins:
Views of #96 Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins from the 2017-18 Regular Season.
What's Been Good:
Considering the entire picture, it's hard to be anything but pleased with the first two seasons that Maliek Collins has put together with the Cowboys. Originally drafted in the third round in 2016, he has been a steady contributor during both of his pro seasons, starting 30 of 32 career games at defensive tackle. Despite battling a foot injury in 2017, he fought through it to be one of the Cowboys' most active defensive linemen. In 16 games, he played 661 defensive snaps – which was second only to DeMarcus Lawrence among defensive linemen. He finished the year with 22 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 3 tackles for loss.
What's Been Bad:
The undeniable flipside of this argument is that, although Collins' career is off to a strong start, his sophomore season felt like a bit of a disappointment. That's what happens when you post 5 sacks as a rookie and head into the 2017 season as a dark horse Pro Bowl candidate. Now, that's obviously not from a lack of effort. Collins first appeared on the injury report with a foot problem in late October, after six games, and he battled that problem for the rest of the season. To his credit, he fought through it, but the stat split is telling. In the first six games of the season, Collins posted 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. In the remaining 10 games, he finished with eight tackles and no sacks. Fortunately, the injury isn't expected to be a long-lasting problem. Stephen Jones said in January that Collins had surgery on his foot after the regular season, so there's plenty of reason for optimism that he will return to his disruptive ways.
In looking over Collins' 2017 season, the undoubted high point has to be his Week 3 performance against Arizona. Playing on Monday Night Football, he posted an impressive five tackles on the night – not to mention two sacks. One of those two sacks came in the fourth quarter, with Dallas holding a 28-17 lead. But the more fun play came late in the second quarter, with Arizona leading 7-0. On 3rd-and-8 from the Arizona 12-yard line, Collins completely posterized Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley, as he rushed him – only to disengage and swim right around the confused veteran lineman. The result was a free path to Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, who Collins charged and eventually brought down for a seven-yard loss. The sack got the Cowboys off the field, and minutes later the offense tied the score, 7-7.
However you might feel about Collins' 2017 season, it's laughable to think his starter status is in any jeopardy moving forward. That said, it's hard to say right now what that will look like. As of right now, it's unclear what the future holds for David Irving. Because of that, it's hard to say whether the front office will spend a premium draft pick on the defensive tackle position. Regardless: whether he's lining up next to Irving or someone else, or whether he's playing three-technique or one-technique, it's a solid bet Maliek Collins will once again be a member of the Cowboys' starting rotation in 2018.
- In my opinion one of the most talented defensive linemen on the squad.
- Went on record to say I was expecting a Pro Bowl type of season from him.
- Showed all the traits in a player that could receive that type of honor.
- He and Zack Martin had daily battles at training camp that were special to watch.
- Was outstanding playing next to Terrell McClain in 2016 as the three technique.
- Had to adjust to the role to the one when the staff used David Irving as the three.
- Had his moments where he flashed but wasn't nearly consistent enough down after down especially after sustaining a foot injury during practice.
- To his credit, fought his way through games despite missing practice time.
- Still have confidence that he can regain that special ability we saw from his rookie season with more time working with the guys around him.
- Too good of a player to believe otherwise.