As our trek through the preseason continues, we take our weekly look at the tape. It was obvious that this week we should look at La'el Collins at right tackle as he tries to tangle with Oakland's Khalil Mack. Unfortunately, this is one of those weeks where we really wanted to see the All-22's to get a complete look at the evening Collins had against the fantastic talent and NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Mack is a nightmare to deal with and has 30 sacks in his 3 NFL seasons. Last year he also had 5 forced fumbles and a nice interception, as well. He is a handful for everyone, so a player like Collins who has never played right tackle would certainly have quite an evening to see where he stands as they prepare for the season.
That seemed like an obvious opportunity to take a look at some views off the TV copy. Not ideal and only a few replays, but let's make the best of what we have to work with.
Collins played the entire 1st half and most of his work was against Mack - although not all of it. I must confess I watched the game on a 24 hour delay and was subjected to some reviews from others before I jumped in. Trusted football mind Evan Silva's review really caught my eye:
Silva has a very defendable position. If you play half a game and commit 3 penalties there is almost no other way to characterize a performance than "rough go". 3 penalties is an excellent season for some, so you don't want 3 in 26 snaps.
But, I still planned to break down this Collins vs Mack showdown (for better or worse) and see what the tape said. I left it thinking Silva's review was both true and false. Let's grab 12 GIFs and take a look:
Collins (#71 Right Tackle) does an excellent job of forcing Mack wide and then riding him past the QB and beyond danger. Mack has to win on speed and often does. But, this is fine work by Collins to get his feet moving and just use Mack's momentum against him.
Here is another example of the same concept. Get your kick steps to get you into a good spot and posture, and then just allow Mack to choose a route and don't give up the edge.
In run blocking, you might think they found another Tyron on the edge. He moves so well and then walls off the defense. He is a monster and will not struggle in run blocking at all. A very prototypical tackle in a zone scheme. You will continue to be pleased on the ground.
This is Khalil Mack, people. He mirrors him, frustrates him, and then pushes him off with attitude. Right tackle is going to be fine, in my opinion.
Not the same play, but a similar concept. He has a bit of a habit to grab the opponent and therefore will get called for the occasional hold, but love the way he finishes these sequences.
2nd quarter. Look at him stone Shilique Calhoun. The Raiders have a nice rotation, but Collins doesn't even give up a shoulder. Sternum to sternum. Great work.
Now Bruce Irvin with a spin move. La'el has no issue. Good feet and confident technique.
Here we have another run play where they pull him into space. He doesn't really get anyone here, but he gets in the way of the defense and helps cut a path for the ball carrier. Well done and again, this is one of his best attributes.
Now, about those 3 penalties - all in a span of 7 plays and 6 minutes of football.
Here he gets the hands in the face of Calhoun. Both are very tall humans going at it, and it looks like he does get the head with his right hand. Innocent mistake, careless, and needs to be cleaned up. But, when I see penalties I am looking for a man who is getting beat looking for a last resort. I don't see anything here that says Collins had to do this. Big difference for me.
There it is again. The right hand. And he has Mack blocked. He is not getting beat. There is no reason to do this. But, you are right in front of the official. You will get flagged. Clean that up.
Penalty 3 is the one where he is holding because he got beat. James Cowser beats him and Collins gets his arm in that holding position before falling on top of him. Pretty legit holding maneuver there and the only one where it looks like he does it because he was losing for a moment. Perhaps he underestimated the least recognizable of the players he faced, but again, that was the one moment all night where I saw him lose for even a moment.
All in all, I loved what I saw. I saw competence and excellence from a player who is figuring things out but also has already been paid handsomely because the Cowboys know he is going to be something, too.
I did not see a "rough go", but in Silva's defense (and others) 3 penalties is 3 penalties anyway you rationalize it. Clean that up and the Cowboys have another blue-chip potential player at right tackle. Doug Free was very good for a decade, but penalties and athletic mismatches caught up to him. Collins will not face many athletic mismatches. He is going to be very good very soon, in my estimation.
He will need to be, because starting Week 1, most every team attacks the right tackle with speed rushers.