Thu, 16 Sep 2021

Weighing The Options With The Right Tackle Job

Dallas Cowboys
14 Sep 2021, 20:24 GMT+10

David Helman

FRISCO, Texas - Details about this offensive line aren't exactly forthcoming, in more ways than one.

As the Cowboys continue to grapple with the potential suspension of La'el Collins, it's understandable if they're not dying to discuss the details of a sensitive situation. Pressed for clarity Monday afternoon, team chief operating officer Stephen Jones acknowledged that he was aware an issue might be coming, but he couldn't get much more specific.

"La'el and his representation are doing what they're doing in terms of any type of work they need to be doing, in terms of if they want to appeal anything or anything along those lines," he said. "Certainly, we're aware of it, understand it, understand what's going on at the moment and we'll have to prepare as such."

Regardless of how that situation plays out, "preparing as such" means the Cowboys need to game plan for their trip to Los Angeles as if Collins won't be in the starting lineup.

As Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy noted on Friday, they'll have time to figure out how they want to play it. And if they decided on a particular course of action over the weekend, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore wasn't ready to divulge it.

"Today being Monday, I think it's all in the discussion and we'll see where it takes us," Moore said.

The burning question is obvious, even if Moore isn't going to answer it. Are the Cowboys going to plug one of their depth tackles - Terence Steele or Ty Nsekhe - into Collins' vacated right tackle spot, or are they going to shuffle things by moving Zack Martin to that position, where he experimented for several games last season?

Philosophically, Moore said he agreed with the idea of putting the five best offensive linemen on the field. Connor McGovern handled himself well against Tampa Bay last week while Martin sat out due to COVID-19, so it makes sense why many think Martin could best be used by changing positions.

Having said that, Moore did acknowledge that you have to assess the fully body of work from when team activities began back during the spring.

"You've got to also balance out what we've done throughout the offseason and where we're at, where players are at in different stages of whether it's their career, or health status," he said. "We'll find a combination here as the week goes on and see what suits us best."

Steele and Nsekhe seem to offer opposite solutions to the same problem. Approaching his 36th birthday, with 12 years of professional experience and 81 games of NFL football under his belt, Nsekhe is one of the most veteran members of this entire roster.

"I think he's handled the transition really smoothly being a veteran guy that can process a different language that can hop in there and play ball," Moore said.

Steele just turned 24 over the summer, and Thursday night's opener in Tampa was his 17th NFL appearance - though, as everyone is aware, injuries all over the offensive line in 2020 led to him gaining an absurd amount of starting experience as a rookie.

"We feel fortunate now that we're at this point, that he's taken advantage of a lot of reps that he's ended up having that we weren't expecting last year," Moore said.

Then there's Martin, who was an All-American left tackle in college before switching to guard at the pro level - where he has been a perennial All-Pro and one of the best in the league his entire career. The severity of the injuries on the offensive line eventually coerced the Cowboys into moving him to tackle last season, and he excelled on several occasions until he was ultimately injured himself.

Regardless, a lack of time on task isn't likely to hinder a player of Martin's caliber, should the Cowboys opt to call his number.

"Zack can pretty much do anything," Moore said.

Unfortunately, it's still just a bunch of questions with no firm answers. The Cowboys will hold their first Week 2 practice on Wednesday. They're assuredly going to work both Steele and Nsekhe at right tackle. If they decide to give Martin some reps, it wouldn't be a surprise if they choose not to tell anyone about it.

One way or another, a decision is coming. All that's left is to stay tuned.

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