FRISCO, Texas – With so many questions to answers, this series will take a look at each position on the roster, and what choices might face the front office heading into 2021.
We'll wrap up the series with the offensive tackles, which saw a plethora of changes during the 2020 season.
Today, let's focus on the two big pieces that need to get healthy for the Cowboys to improve this position.
How Tyron Smith & La'el Collins Return In 2021?
Take your pick on what position was hit the hardest by the injury bug.
Quarterback seems rather logical considering four players started a game, although the Cowboys did have former Pro Bowlers in the lineup for 14 of the 16 games.
Cornerback was banged up all year as it took until the final month of the season to finally have the top four corners together.
But really, no position was altered more in 2020 than the offensive tackles.
Both starters missed 30 of 32 games. And if that's not enough, even the backups had their share of injury issues, forcing the Cowboys to start an undrafted rookie for most of the season at one spot. And by the end of the season, it was another undrafted second-year player manning the left side of the line.
Needless to say, the Cowboys missed Tyron Smith and La'el Collins in a major way.
And all the efforts to replace them, whether it was with veteran Cam Erving, or moving Zack Martin to the outside for a few games, or playing the likes of Terence Steele and Brandon Knight, could make up for the loss of these two tackles.
So here we are, getting ready for the offseason to begin for the Cowboys.
While there has been an abundance of conversations regarding Dak Prescott and his contract situation, talks on the Collins and Smith seem to come in a close second.
Smith played in just two of the first four games last year before undergoing season-ending neck surgery. It was a procedure Smith likely could've had a season or two before. The Cowboys are hopeful this will greatly strengthen his mobility and agility, especially in the neck area.
Now, Smith has also had back and elbow issues in recent years and could find himself dealing with those lingering problems. But for the most part, the optimism seems high on Smith being able to return to his Pro Bowl form in 2021.
As for Collins, who missed all of last season due to hip surgery, the prognosis is similar to Smith. The veteran right tackle has been rehabbing the injury, even at times at The Star in Frisco. Collins could likely be ready for some of the offseason program, but like with all players returning from surgery, especially vets, he'll slowly integrate back into drills.
It's likely Collins and Smith won't return to full-time until training camp, and even then, the Cowboys will probably limit their reps to get them fully ready for the start of the regular season.
But the fact that both Collins and Smith are on course to return in 2021 is reason enough to be optimistic about the entire offensive line.