Tag Archives: La’el Collins

Upon Further Review ~ The 2017 Dallas Cowboys

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Upon further review, my team, your team,  America’s Team and exactly how things shook out during 2017.  What went right and what did not.  “Grab your popcorn this is going to be entertaining,” – Terrell Owens.

The Dallas finished 2016 on a high note.  At 13-3 the expectations for this 2017 were Super Bowl or Bust.  The Cowboys boasted big talent with as many powerful weapons on offense as North Korea.

Something else that came with the 2016 success was a tough road to travel –  after being the NFC East Champions, the Cowboys were granted a champion’s schedule.

There were no easy games on the Cowboy’s schedule for 2017 and I was really hopeful that they would be up for the task at hand.  I still anticipated a ten win season and a run in the playoffs.

Training Camp

On review of the boys of summer, mini camps, training camp and the preseason, Dallas had a whole lot to look forward to and their biggest concern was the revamped secondary.

Dez Bryant and Dak Prescott would have all summer to develop the connection everyone expected with Dez once again healthy.  Dez made some tremendous grabs during the summer, showing nearly every one concerned, he was going to be back as an elite weapon.

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Rico Gathers was a crowd favorite at this time.  Gathers was spoken about by the media as the heir apparent to Jason Witten.  Gathers stole the show in the preseason.

La’el Collins took over for Doug Free at right tackle.  With most of a season and a full summer to perfect his craft, Collins became a bright spot, with his devotion to be the player we all expected.  La’el played through injury, some adversity and he did it was class.

Brice Butler and rookie Ryan Switzer had excellent summers.  Both of these receivers should have made major contributions to the offense.

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The secondary rookies who the Cowboys were dependent on left a lot of questions.  Both Chidobe Awuzie and Jordan Lewis did not have the start to the season they had envisioned, due to soft tissue issues.

Just before the roster is due to be cut down to 53 man roster, Kavon Frazier applied the wood to the much larger Rico Gathers causing a concussion that kept Gathers on the IR for the entire season.  I have always questioned this.

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I believe the truth is, Rico was not as polished as James Hanna, but leaving him on the practice squad would have forced Jerry Jones’ hand, bring him up now or have some other team steal him from our practice squad.

Some bombs were dropped in Texas last summer.  David “Dino” Irving would be suspended for the first four games for testing positive for “Performance Enhancing Drugs.”

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The league handed down one of its toughest suspensions yet, giving Ezekiel “Zeke” Elliott a six game suspension for a reported domestic situation that turned ugly.  Although Ohio found no evidence to the claim, Roger Goodell made up for the Ray Rice debacle.  Zeke’s legal team said they would fight this to the end, which would allow Zeke to play in 2017.  Goodell won and Zeke was forced into being away from his team for six games mid season.

Randy Gregory’s year long suspension, put this man’s future with the Cowboys in serious doubt.

The Season

The Cowboys opened with the New York Giants and won in winning fashion.  The second game of the season the Cowboys were exposed by the Denver Broncos.  Dallas’ offense played flat and vanilla.

The third game of the season had Dallas exposing the Arizona Cardinals in their own nest. It looked like our boys were back in the saddle and ready to take prisoners.

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Then came the Los Angles Rams followed by the Green Bay Packers.  The offense was good enough in both of these games; however, the defense was not.  The Cowboys scored 30 and 31 respectfully, but the defense could not stop either team.

The Cowboys won the next three games against the San Francisco 49’ers, the Washington Redskins, and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Little mentioned is the loss of Brian Price.  The defense took a step backwards when Price was injured and out for the season.  Give a healthy round of applause to Will McClay for bring in Datone Jones, also a former Packer.

The Cowboys vanilla offense was exposed in Zeke’s absence and the Cowboys lost the next three games only managing to mount up 22 points during that span.

The Cowboys needed to win out to reach the playoffs.  They beat both the Redskins and the Giants again , sweeping both NFC teams.

Dallas pulled out a close one in Oakland, defeating the Raiders 20-17.  The defense was balling out.  The new guys were getting it, forcing veteran Byron Jones to rest more than he expected.

Seattle came to town and the Cowboys defense stood its ground.  The defensive unit only allow 14 points, which would still not have been enough to secure a victory.  Dak and Dez gave the game away between bad passing and failure to catch the ball when targeted.  The Cowboy offense only managed 12 points at home and that was with Zeke in the line-up.

The finale sent Dallas to the most unfriendly place on Earth, Philadelphia.  The weather was so cold the majority of the Eagles boo-birds stayed at home leaving the stadium quite empty for the last game of the season.

Philly had won the East and home field advantage.  Dallas was determined not to get swept by their rival the Eagles. The Eagles sent the practice squad out to play in the cold after the first quarter.  Dak could NOT find Dez most of the game.

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Brice Butler had the only score of the game.  With full extension, Brice caught two Dak passes, in review, Butler was seriously underused all season, exception, the two of the last three games he missed with a foot injury.

Dan Bailey shanked an extra point and a 23 yard field goal.  In review, Dan lost his rhythm after his groin injury.  We all hope he returns to form next season.

Standouts

Special teams were outstanding all season.  Coach Rich Bisaccia did another fine/outstanding job with his teams.

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Next season, Chris Jones deserves to be a Captain.  His work ethic along with his kicking ability made him  standout.  I would not take “any” punter over Chris Jones.

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Ryan Switzer took a while to get his game going, but he did.  Look for more playing time next season for this kid.

Jeff Heath came in for Dan Bailey and was our place kicker for one game.  Heath made a believer out his teammates who doubted his story about winning his high school championship with a field goal.

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Jeff has devoted himself in the weight room, each off season, and it has really shown this season.  His versatility and sure tackling on defense and special teams made him invaluable in 2017.

5’10” rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis became one of the most dependable cornerbacks on the team.

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He struggled a little, early on, just as Darren Woodson predicted, but his game was up to bar by the 12th game, just a Woodson also predicted.

Zeke played only ten games and missed a thousand yard season by 17 yards.

Jason Witten played in his 15th season.

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No need to say more about the most complete tight end in the NFL.  Witten shall be the standard all tight ends will be measured by and he is coming back for year 16.

DeMarcus Lawrence played like a man who was about to become richer after playing in a contract season.  D-Law played at an MVP level this season.  His services WILL remain in Dallas, when his agent agrees to the final paperwork.

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Without Sean Lee and Tyron Smith the Cowboys weren’t the same team.  Sean Lee led the team in tackles, even after missing several games.  Lee played what I considered to be one of his best seasons.  Sean’s ability to read and react are unequaled.

The team just could not protect Dak with Tyron out of the game.  Most of that was due to Tyron absence, but a huge portion was the coaching staff FAILED to adapt.

Dak suffered from sophomore slump and body aches.  Look for him to rebound in 2018 and lead this team.

Anthony HItchens never lost heart.

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He suffered a bizarre knee cap fracture in the final preseason game.  Hitchens came back early and performed.  Expect management to retain Anthony’s services.

Jaylon and Rod Smith, brothers who really had each other’s back.  Jaylon Smith was thrown in the fire when Hitchens went down.

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By mid-season, he was splitting time with Hitchens and improving each week.  It will be hard to unseat Jaylon from the starting Mike position next season.

Rod Smith was a huge surprise to Cowboys fans but not to his brother.  Rod balled out each time he touched the ball.

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Give him credit, especially when his main job was special teams contributor, for becoming a touchdown machine in Zeke’s absence.

Looking Forward

To be successful in this league, you have to have vision, heart and a touch of humility.

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Rod Marinelli and Matt Eberflus made a defense last year that is going to dominate in 2018.

The same can NOT be said about Scott Linehan.  His play calling was so vanilla that they could not score like a team with so many weapons should.  Scott’s job is in peril.

That is exactly what is in store for the 2018 season.  The Cowboys have not learned to play at home, for whatever reason.  They are 12-4 on the road over the last two seasons.  The inability to produce wins at home must be in review.

The Cowboys will need to keep their defense intact while managing to  get a reliable swing tackle and a speedster who can catch the ball ~ to spread the field.  Without getting these three needs filled ~ the Cowboys of 2108 are in jeopardy of becoming another Jason Garrett’s 8-8 team.


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Cowboys Conquer Invading Chiefs

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The Dallas Cowboys were able to conquer the invasion from Andy Reid and his Kanas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Andy Reid is one of the most respected leaders in the NFL.  He is a coach with “Class”.  Reid commands his tribe with honor and gets the respect he deserves, (after leaving Philadelphia).  His teams are able to conquer adversity and they always seem to play at a “Playoff Level.”

If commissioner Rodger Goodell would remove his head from his ass, while keeping football about the game and not him yielding his dull sword, Jason Garrett and the Cowboys could keep all this bullshit media news about Ezekiel Elliott in the past, exactly where it belongs.

The Offense

Elliott was a sledgehammer in this game after only being allowed to practice one day last week.

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While Zeke did not reach his 100 yards plus for the day, he did bring his special talents to the field.  Zeke is a fantastic blocker and he proved it again against a stout Kanas City defense.

There is never an easy day in this league for an offensive tackle on either side of the line, but let me give credit where credit is due.  La’el Collins faces some of the toughest assignments each week and to his credit, he is becoming a dominant right tackle.  Collins’ technique is vastly improved and he is so big and strong that he punishes and wears down opposing players.  Collins had a great day against a very capable defense including one of the top pass rushers,  Justin Houston.

We witnessed shades of it last season, but Rayne Dakota Prescott is one of the best quarterbacks in the entire NFL, in only his second season.

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This young man has made his mother, in Heaven, extremely proud!  Dak never seems to lose his winning composure.  He has been able to conquer the toughest position in pro sports.  His physical attributes are going to launch him into fame.

Cole Beasley came back after battling a concussion he received late in the Washington game and did not disappoint the huge crowd in Dallas.

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Cole scored two touchdowns in a game where his skills were badly needed.

Terrance Williams played his most visible game in two years.  TWill is often scorned for a bad play here and there, but not on this Sunday.  Williams has been quiet all season, doing more blocking than receiving.  However, on Sunday, when the lights were shinning through the roof, he turned his game up a notch or two.   Terrance had his first 100 yard plus game since 2015.  He played heads up when he needed to stay in bounds to keep the clock running.  His runs after the catch set the tone for the passing game.

Let us take our hats off to Scott Linehan, who called a brilliant game.

Defense!

When Sean Lee is on the field, good things are going to happen.  Our defensive “Captain”  brings his special attitude to the defense and it is contagious.  We faced the top rusher in the league, Kareem Hunt, and restricted him to a dismal 37 yards rushing.  When Sean is in the game, everyone plays better.

The defensive line kept Alex Smith contained.  The were able to conquer the offensive line and held the running game in checkmate.

First round selection, Taco Charlton, recorded his first NFL official SACK on Sunday.  With pressure coming inside from Richard Ash, Alex Smith was forced into the awaiting arms of Taco.

The play of David Irving, DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford are making this line respectable, once again.

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Byron Jones played his worst game of his NFL career on Sunday.  But he never gave up.

Jeff Heath continues to gain popularity in this defense.  Alex Smith had not thrown one single interception this season prior to Jeff’s pick late in the fourth quarter to seal the game.  With both Jeff and Orlando Scandrick breaking on Smith’s pass, they took Travis Kelsey out of the play, completely.

Special Teams

Rich Bisaccia has his Special Teams Unit playing outstanding football.

Kavon Frazier continued his ability to conquer blockers on the STU.

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His play this season has secured him as a STU core member.

James Hanna made a spectacular tackle on the two yard line following a Chris Jones punt.  Jones has been worth his weight in gold this season!

Dishonorable Mention

With two seconds remaining in the first half, Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli made the worst decision of the season.  When playing winning football, you have to stick with what is successful, you don’t go to the often self-defeating “Prevent Defense.”  They installed a three man front with seven defensive backs and Anthony Hitchens, no Sean Lee?  This maneuver allowed a short pass to Tyrek Hill to score from 45 yards out.  Bad idea, period.

Honorable Mention

Jason Garrett’s clock management was perhaps the best it has ever been against a top opponent.

Jason Witten’s name was hardly called in this game, but his blocking was superb.

Tony Romo’s initial return to AT&T Stadium was an emotional factor before the game.

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Jason Witten’s narrative was off the charts for one of the truly great leaders in Dallas Cowboys lore.  Tony is an even broadcaster than he was a quarterback.  We love you #9!

It was a big move in the right direction as the Cowboys were able to conquer the invading Kanas City Chiefs.  It was a total team effort.  Up next are the Atlanta Falcons.