FRISCO, Texas -- In the first regular-season game La'el Collins will play at right tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, he will see one of their biggest tormentors: New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
In 11 games against the Cowboys, Pierre-Paul has recorded seven sacks, an interception, a touchdown, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, two pass deflections and 38 tackles. He gave Doug Free fits, although it should be noted he has 9.5 sacks in 10 games against the Washington Redskins and 5.5 sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles in 12 games, so he causes problems for lots of NFC East offensive tackles.
Collins, who started 14 games at left guard over his first two years, has been studying Pierre-Paul for a good portion of the offseason.
"He's a real talented player," Collins said. "I think as a defensive unit as a whole, the front end and the back end, they do a good job working together, and everybody understands where they need to be at. For us, we just got to go out there and trust what we have to do as a team and go get it done together."
What might help Collins is that he worked against one of the best pass-rushers in football in the preseason when he lined up across from Khalil Mack -- who had 11 sacks a year ago -- and more than held his own.
"They're different style players, but definitely anytime you go against top-tier guys like that you just have to stay locked in on what you got to do,” Collins said.
The Cowboys never swayed away from moving Collins to right tackle. As the opener approaches, they don't know for sure who will replace Collins at left guard -- probably Chaz Green, but it could be Jonathan Cooper -- but they feel confident in what Collins can do as Free's replacement.
They liked him so much so that they gave him a two-year extension this offseason that guaranteed him an extra $9.5 million at signing.
"He wants to be out there," coach Jason Garrett said. "That's important. It's important to want to be where you are in life. Walk in that meeting, go out to that walk-through, go out to practice, want to go play that spot and get better and better and better. And he's just a good person anyway. He loves football. He loves being around it. He's really embraced everything since he's been here. I think he's excited to play out there, and he's embraced the challenge."