IRVING, Tex. — One of the ways the Dallas Cowboys hoped for an improved pass rusher early in the season took a huge setback when rookie defensive tackle Maliek Collins’ broke his right foot last week.
Collins underwent surgery and already has begun his rehab. He should return in 10-12 weeks.
“We had surgery on it at the end of last week,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “The surgery went well. We anticipate him being back. They’ve given us a number of different times, 10-12 weeks, something like that, right around the start of training camp.”
It happened on a freak non-contact play and the Cowboys hope of getting him back for the start of camp is somewhat optimistic.
What is certain is that it is a huge setback in the learning curve for the rookie third-round pick who the Cowboys hoped could open the season as the starter at under tackle, allowing them to move Tyrone Crawford to end to make up for the losses of Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence.
Both will miss the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Of course, losing a promising rookie early to injury is par for the course for the Cowboys and their defensive line.
Lawrence broke his foot early in training camp as a
rookie in 2014. The Cowboys placed him on injured reserve/designated for return, and he played in only seven games and finished with no sacks in the regular season.
Gregory sprained his ankle in the season opener last year and missed four games. He never fully recovered and finished the season with no sacks.
“It happened to Randy last year, the earlier part; it happened to DeMarcus Lawrence,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said, “so it does set you back. But if it had to happen, it’s better it happened now. He’s a hard-nosed guy, a good attitude with him; he’s tough, so he’ll bounce back fast I think.”
Collins remains unsigned, the only member of the Cowboys’ draft class not yet to agree to terms. But that has more to do with the third-round picks across the league who are not signed.
The Cowboys have more depth at tackle than at end but this could put a crimp in their plans of moving Crawford out to end at the start of the season.
“We have a lot of defensive linemen on our team right now, so it gives some of the younger guys and even the veteran guys more snaps,” Garrett said. “Maliek was doing well for us. He was off to a good start. We do anticipate him being back healthy and ready to go.”
The Cowboys had only 28 sacks in 2014 and 31 last season.