Dallas Cowboys: This undrafted free agent dominated the Chargers


Many people consider the first preseason game worthless but it is important in that it is the first time the world gets to see each team’s rookies in action. For almost two decades, fans of the Dallas Cowboys tuned in to preseason games to see the flashy rookie wide receivers and corners but the organization’s recent philosophical change has given fans reason to closely watch the offensive line.

While watching the backups and undrafted free agents were running around the field like headless chickens in San Diego on Thursday night, Cowboys’ rookie guard La’el Collins showed flashes of why he was so highly thought of prior to the 2015 NFL Draft. Though Collins is officially an undrafted free agent, it is clear by his performance on Thursday, he is likely to be a major piece of the Cowboys’ roster for years to come.

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By now, most know of how Collins was rated at the best offensive lineman in the 2015 NFL Draft but went undrafted after his ex-girlfriend was murdered just days prior to the draft. Eventually, the police in Louisiana cleared Collins of any suspicion but not until after the draft, allowing Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones to pounce on the prospect and sign him to a cheap contract.

Three months later, Collins left San Diego with a souvenir from his first NFL action, a swollen eye that he wore as a badge of honor. During his almost two quarters of game action, the massive guard made two standout plays that showcased his athleticism and his nasty streak.

Collins’ first standout play came on the Cowboys’ only touchdown of the game. As fellow undrafted rookie, running back Gus Johnson scampered 5 yards for a touchdown, Collins took out two defenders that could have made the play.

Focus on the left guard for the Cowboys, number 71 as he clears the way for Johnson.

The play shows how Collins possesses both the strength and quickness that separates premier offensive linemen from the rest of the pack. Collins starts the play by pushing a San Diego Chargers defensive lineman three yards off the ball opening a hole for Johnson. Then, in a split second, Collins peels off of that block to get just enough of a rushing linebacker to knock him off his path and give the ball carrier a chance to gain enough momentum to carry himself into the end zone.

"Of the play, Collins told the Dallas Morning News, “My eyes were on the backer the whole time…I just got a really good fit on the three-technique and soon as the linebacker broke the heels of the defensive lineman I launched off and picked up a great block. The back did a great job of being patient and he got up there right in the middle.”"

In one play, Collins shows strength and agility but also something more important. The play he made can’t be drawn up or taught, it was a play made by Collins’ natural football instincts. The second play is the one that has fans raving. Collins fires off the line towards San Diego rookie linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo, for whom the results were ugly.

Like an angry grizzly bear, Collins mauls Ariguzo and slams him to the ground. But two other aspects of this play are worth noting.

Notice how quickly the rookie from LSU fires off of the line of scrimmage and gets to the second level of the defense giving the linebacker no time to react and make a play. Second, watch Collins modest but obvious celebration after the play, which displays his mean streak.

However, these two plays were a small sample of Collins’ work and he was quick to note that he made mistakes.

"“There’s a lot of things I need to clean up, things I can get better at, keep working on. I’m so far away from where I want to be at, I just need to continue to work.” Link"

Obviously, the ordeal the young man went through in the spring has made him humble and grateful for the opportunity to play football when at one time he feared that he might lose that dream and maybe his freedom.

"“It’s great to just be a part of this,” he said. “It’s special. Each and every day I come out and I don’t take it for granted. This is special. It was special from the first second I got here until the last second I’m going to be here.” Link"

Dallas has the best offensive line in football and adding Collins to the mix only improves the unit’s depth. By all reports, incumbent starting right guard Ronald Leary has done nothing to lose his job but if Collins makes such dominant plays in his first ever NFL game, it is hard to imagine that as he improves he won’t become yet another Pro Bowl caliber piece of the Dallas offensive line.

Next: Dallas Cowboys: Six players whose stock is rising