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Redskins vs Cowboys Week 13 Player Spotlight: La'el Collins

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From one of the top two OL prospects in the draft, to undrafted, to a Dallas Cowboy... to Rookie of the Year? Is Collins a steal or just another troubled Cowboy with a checkered history?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

La'el Collins

Offensive Lineman

Age: 22

Height: 6'5"

Weight: 312 lbs.

College: Louisiana State

NFL Draft: 2015 - Undrafted

Form

La'el Collins was universally regarded as one of the top OL prospects available in the 2015 NFL Draft.  However, after cloudiness surrounding Collins and the murder of his ex-girlfriend, NFL teams shied away.  Well, all NFL teams except for one... of course.  Though Collins went undrafted, he signed with the Cowboys following the draft.  And though Collins wasn't a starter for the Cowboys to begin the season, he's now played in eight straight games with seven straight starts.

Some rookies struggle with the physicality of the NFL compared to college, but not Collins.  All you have to do is look at the video above (and look past the weird puppet) and you'll see that Collins embraces the physicality.  No one's really questioned him physically, but after the pre-draft "noise," many began to question him mentally.  Well, for Collins and the Cowboys, so far so good.

Still, Collins is a rookie and has played like one.  For all the greatness he's showed, he's had his off-days as well.  Last week against Carolina, for example.  Collins really struggled.  Of course, you'd expect most offensive rookies would struggle against the Panther defense.  The Cowboys were in a great position to get Collins on the field at LG by have the stud Tyron Smith at LT to play alongside him.  It's appeared to help Collins tremendously and he's looked like a natural at LG.  He's been especially great in the run game.

Something I recently read about Collins (from early November) is that after his first two starts, he'd already earned the highest grade PFF gives to run blockers... twice!  And of course, people have been going crazy about him blowing up those Seahawks (shown above).

As far as that murder case that caused Collins to go undrafted... well, the case has gone cold and cops don't believe Collins was involved.  There's still no suspect, but the cops have said publicly that they don't believe Collins had anything to do with her death.  Of course, Collins was never actually named a suspect, but he did meet with the police just prior to the draft.

Skills

Collins is a thick, powerful OL who is almost impossible to move against his will.  Additionally, especially for a man his size, he sports incredibly quick feet that go perfectly with his long arms.  He's strong and aggressive, especially in the run game.  Impressively quick off the snap, he's a natural at creating running lanes.  He's also a monster at the second level.

Collins' weaknesses are masked a little by playing him at G as opposed to OT.  He struggles at OT against speed rushers and doesn't possess top-end balance.  Also, sometimes he's a bit too aggressive and lunges unnecessarily.  He's a mauler of a run blocker, that's for sure.

Potential Against the Redskins

Well, I think it's pretty clear, Collins is special in the run game and for the most part, the Redskins defense has really struggled stopping the run.  If he can do what he did in that video to Pro Bowlers on the Seahawks, then he can certainly do that to Will Compton and DeAngelo Hall.  With Tony Romo lost for the season, the Cowboys figure to lean even more on their elite OL and powerful running game.  That plays right into Collins hands.

However, in the passing game, I believe Collins could be a liability against great interior pass rushers like Chris Baker and Jason Hatcher.  Their quickness is impressive and may neutralize Collins a bit who is much better when he can make first contact and gain control of his opponent.  With a backup QB in there, Collins stepping up in pass protection is going to be paramount if the Cowboys are to have success.

Interesting Facts

In HS, Collins paved the way for Bengals RB Jeremy Hill.  Simply talking with the police before the draft (not as a suspect) may have cost Collins $15-20M over the course of his first three professional seasons.  Every Friday, La'el picks up sandwiches at 5:30AM for the rest of the OL before their 6:30AM workout.  Also, on flights for away games, he's in charge of making sure everybody on the plane has Buffalo Wild Wings.  La'el is pronounced Luh-El.

For more interesting facts, read this excellent article by Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report: Vilified, Vindicated, Victorious: La'El Collins Is a Man on a Mission.

Also check out La'el Twitter account @70LaelCollins.  The three themes I see right off the bat: God, the Cowboys, and LSU.