FRISCO, Texas -- The names are a who’s-who of pass-rushers in the NFL. Von Miller, Khalil Mack, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryan Kerrigan, Joey Bosa, Nick Perry and Brandon Graham combined for 69.5 sacks last season.
“I really don’t care,” Collins said matter-of-factly at his locker after Wednesday’s organized team activities.
“Because they don’t mean nothing to me,” he said. “I’ll see them when I see them.”
The comment might raise the eyebrows of the aforementioned pass-rushers, but Collins wasn’t being flippant. It’s early June. He doesn’t need to know everything about Miller’s speed or Graham’s power or Bosa’s relentlessness yet. He doesn’t even really know if he will be the right tackle when the Cowboys open the regular season Sept. 10 against Pierre-Paul and the New York Giants.
However, it is looking that way, if the OTAs are any indication. Despite saying earlier in the offseason that the preference was to keep Collins at left guard, the Cowboys have given him every snap with the first-team offense at right tackle.
On Wednesday, Collins displayed the power and athleticism necessary to be a top tackle. On back-to-back plays, the 23-year-old withstood a bull rush from Damontre Moore and Lenny Jones and ended up flinging both players to the ground. It was a moment normally reserved for Cowboys All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith.
“It’s weird because I feel like if you change positions and you’re doing everything out of an opposite stance, that it would take time, but it just feels damn natural to me,” Collins said. “It just feels natural. It just feels good. It all comes with focus and being locked in and staying locked in throughout everything, understanding my footwork, understanding where I need to be, understanding football. Once you do that, you study film, you prepare the right way, you can go out there and play free.”
After being a much-heralded, undrafted free-agent signing in 2015, Collins started 14 games his first two seasons -- but at left guard. A toe injury ended his 2016 after three games, but his replacement, Ronald Leary, left this offseason as a free agent to the Denver Broncos. Doug Free, the right tackle the past five seasons, opted to retire, and that opened a hole on the line.
The Cowboys briefly tried Collins at right tackle in 2015 but opted to make him a guard. He played left tackle his final two seasons at LSU, but the Cowboys thought his best spot was on the interior.
“Doug was an established player for us,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We wanted to give LC a chance to show what he could do out there, and then we felt it was best for him and for us to let him compete inside. He responded well to that and did a really nice job in there.”
The Cowboys kept coming back to Collins' athleticism and his time at LSU. The player drafted to be the right tackle of the future, Chaz Green, a third-round pick in 2015, has had a difficult time staying healthy. Before the first set of OTAs began, line coach Frank Pollack told Collins that he would get a chance at right tackle.
“One of the things we didn’t want to do with LC is make him a right tackle on Monday, make him a left guard on Tuesday and move him back on Wednesday,” Garrett said. “We want to give him a chance to play tackle and get his feet underneath a little bit. We’ve played some other guys at that guard spot, and it’s been productive for everybody.”
Collins’ toe is fully healed. He said he is as strong as he has ever been, but he has not needed to change his body to handle the more athletic pass-rushers on the outside.
“I mean, every day I’ve been at right tackle,” Collins said. “I haven’t done anything at guard these OTAs, so I’m just focusing on where they got me and being my best there.”
In the coming months, he will figure out whom he has to block, but there’s no need to stress about it now. Or maybe his opponents should stress about seeing him.