The Dallas Cowboys lost a game Thursday night. In the aftermath, they've lost two key offensive contributors.
First, receiver Michael Gallup's calf injury will keep him off the field for 3-5 weeks. And this afternoon the NFL has announced that starting right tackle La'el Collins has been suspended five games for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
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After missing all of last season with a hip injury, Collins started and played every offensive snap of Dallas' season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A statement by the NFL says Collins has been "suspended without pay" for the next five games and won't be eligible to return to the Cowboys' active roster until Oct. 18 following their game against the New England Patriots.
The suspension, which, according to reports stems from Collins missing multiple drug tests - or, a source tells CowboysSI.com, a different CBA wrinkle labeled "failure to cooperate with testing'' - is another blow to the Cowboys' hopes of regaining continuity along the offensive line.
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Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin missed the opener due to COVID, but is expected to return for the Cowboys' Week 2 game at the Los Angeles Chargers Sept. 19. By all accounts, backup Connor McGovern had a solid performance against Tampa Bay's strong defensive front in Martin's absence.
The Cowboys haven't enjoyed having Martin, Collins and perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith on the field together for more than 20 games, since a home loss to the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 28, 2019.
With Collins out last season, head coach Mike McCarthy was hesitant to slide Martin to right tackle. But given McGovern's strong showing, that seems a logical move while Collins' serves his suspension.
But just like that, any positive momentum created by the Cowboys' offense amassing 451 yards and 29 points against one of the NFL's best defense has been stymied by news of the imminent absences of two of their top players.