La'el Collins wants to stay at right tackle, but it isn’t going to be his decision. Whether he stays or moves back to left guard likely depends on whether new tackle Cameron Fleming or new guard Marcus Martin proves the better fit in the Cowboys’ offensive line.
Dallas has an opening on its line after Jonathan Cooper, who started 13 games at left guard, departed in free agency.
“LC [Collins] is a guy who has played inside for us at guard. He played tackle for us last year,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Sunday night at the team’s Taste of the NFL event at The Star. “We saw him as a guy who could do both coming out of school. You’ve heard me say this a lot: One of the things we want to do is always try to play our five best guys. A big part of that beyond just who are the best is try to put them in the best place for them individually and the best place for them collectively. His versatility is going to help us. We have signed a couple of linemen. We’ll get them in the mix . . . and see where they fit in and get to work.”
Collins started 11 games at left guard as a rookie. He began 2016 as the starter there before injuring a toe in the third game, ending his season prematurely. A year ago, after left guard Ron Leary left in free agency and right tackle Doug Free retired, Collins moved to right tackle.
“I played against a lot of great players in my first year at right tackle,” Collins said. “For me, it only made me better as a player. Honestly, I never thought I could play multiple positions at the offensive line spot. Just being able to have played pretty much every position except center, it feels great. Going against those guys last year was a big stepping stone for me going into next year.”
Collins, 24, makes it clear he would prefer to play right tackle, saying, “I like playing tackle, so hey, I think that’s where we’ll be.” But he also said he will do what’s best for the Cowboys, and what’s best might require a move back to left guard.
“Man, at the end of the day, I’m here to help the football team,” Collins said. “I think we’re in the right direction. I think we’ll be where we need to be.”
Collins played through injuries last season, including back pain late in the season, and was one of only two players to play all 1,065 offensive snaps. Center Travis Frederick also played every offensive snap.
“Guys are going to play through pain,” Collins said. “That comes with the game. It’s all about what you can play through. I feel good. Every Sunday I woke up I feel like I was able to play, and that’s what I did. I took that approach, and I did what I could in between.”