The news was something we didn't want to see, but as fans of the Dallas Cowboys, we also were not really surprised. The team was not able to get through OTAs without a fairly significant injury. It was reported that third-round draft pick Maliek Collins broke a bone in his right foot. Since the injury happened last week, the Cowboys were not even able to get through the first OTA session without a promising player going down.
Although no injury is good news, especially to one of the higher draft picks, this is not the worst thing that could happen. The best news is that Collins is expected to fully recover, with his recovery time estimated to be 10 to 12 weeks. If accurate, that would have him returning to practice after the start of training camp. The low end has him back prior to the first preseason game, while the full 12 weeks would get him back to action between the second and third exhibitions. He will certainly be behind from having missed practices, but (knock on wood) if he stays healthy, he should be at least close to caught up by the start of the regular season. Collins still has a chance to make a bigger first-year contribution than either DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory did in their rookie years.
From a larger perspective, there is the question of what happened. Preventing injuries is priority one during OTAs. While Collins represents a failure there, his injury seems to fall clearly into the category of Flukey Things That Happen When You Play Football.
Cowboys DT Terrell McClain said rookie Maliek Collins broke his foot just making a simple cut.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) June 1, 2016
Injuries usually have a random nature to them, and in this case, that seems absolutely true.
What is more galling is that this happened to a defensive tackle at a time when there are myriad concerns about the pass rush. With the suspensions of Lawrence and Gregory, the belief is that the Cowboys will be trying to use more interior pressure this season to get to the quarterback. Having an injury to the player taken with a quality draft pick for that very reason just seems to be an extension of the bad luck that so plagued the team in 2015.
However, as has been frequently mentioned, rookie pass rushers seldom make large contributions as they adjust to the pro game. Additionally, there are six other DTs currently on the roster, although David Irving may be used primarily as an end. The core seems solid there. This is likely the end of any discussion of kicking Tyrone Crawford outside as a rusher, but with Terrell McClain returning from his injury, free agent addition Cedric Thornton, well-regarded UDFA Rodney Cole, and massive Casey Walker, the Cowboys should be able to manage until Collins is ready to resume practice. Rod Marinelli also likes to move his players around, so there is a good chance that one or more of the defensive ends will get a few snaps inside during camp and the preseason games. Jack Crawford is the most likely to help out there, with some experience as a 3-tech.
While it is certainly cold comfort, having this happen early is better than if it had occurred at the end of the minicamp, giving him more time to heal. What the team has to avoid is rushing him back. His injury has been described as being the same as the one Dez Bryant suffered last season, and there is evidence that Bryant came back too soon. Even after his return, he was not the player we have seen in the past, and he is being held out of most work so far as the team awaits the result of a re-check of his healing. It would be far better for Collins to take an extra week or so rather than rush him onto the field. He will need some time to catch up on the work he will miss as well.
But even the worst case scenario would seem to have Collins able to go for most of the season. This is, unfortunately, almost certainly not the only injury issue that will arise before the regular season. Hopefully, any further will be as manageable as this one appears to be.