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Containing Von Miller is next challenge for La’el Collins, Cowboys line

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Denver Broncos cornerback and Prosper resident
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Denver Broncos cornerback and Prosper resident

Dallas Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins isn’t going to take any pass rusher for granted.

It doesn’t matter if he’s facing proven veterans such as Jason Pierre-Paul and Von Miller, or a guy somebody just signed off the streets.

As Collins — in his first season at right tackle — put it: “I take it one week at a time. I understand that everybody is good in this league. The one second you think that you’re going against some guy you’ve never heard of, you’re going to get beat. You’re going get your [butt] whooped.

“So, for me, I take it one week at a time. On game day, I take it one play at a time.”

That’s the mindset that helped Collins fare well against the New York Giants’ Pierre-Paul in the opener, limiting the man affectionately known as “JPP” to three tackles and no sacks. He would like to minimize Miller in a similar fashion this week when the Cowboys visit the Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon.

Miller is among the elite pass rushers in the league, being named first-team All Pro the past two seasons and registering 38.5 sacks the past three seasons.

Miller, the DeSoto native who starred at Texas A&M, is known for his quickness and bend off the edge. Not many, if any, players possess the kind of athleticism he does.

“Just an exceptional player,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s one of those guys who is a real difference-maker. He’s one of those guys who has affected games probably since he was growing up here in South Dallas. He’s an incredible athlete. He has a great feel for rushing the passer. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s explosive.

“He’s got a hunger to get there and he seems to do it again and again and again at this level with a lot of attention. He’s a great football player.”

As Garrett said, opposing teams have tried everything to slow down Miller in recent years. Sometimes, extra help doesn’t even contain him on passing downs, evidence of his 73.5 career sacks in 89 career games.

Miller is already 75th on the all-time list and is on pace to reach the 100-sack mark in his career at 121 career games — which would be quicker than Hall of Famers such as Richard Dent (130) and Derrick Thomas (133).

Broncos coach Vance Joseph almost dared the Cowboys to try and block Miller one on one on passing downs.

“To block Von one on one on third downs on passing downs wouldn’t be smart for anyone,” Joseph said. “I hope they block him one on one. That would be good for us.”

Miller’s former teammate, longtime Cowboys great DeMarcus Ware, offered this advice for Collins.

“When you think about Von, you think about speed, a guy that’s bringing a lot of pass rush moves and a smart player,” Ware said. “I know La’el Collins, he’s a younger guy. He wants to be aggressive. Just tell him to play smart and not go out there and try to always use your brute strength, especially against the pass rush. Just know that it’s not going to be a one-time thing.”

Miller has shown no signs of slowing down. This is a guy who had a pair of three-sack games last season.

Miller didn’t have a sack in the Broncos’ season-opening win over the Los Angeles Chargers, but still recorded four tackles and a quarterback hit.

“He’s a different kind of guy, just in the sense of he has really good speed,” Collins said. “I think we have guys who have that kind of get off, so I’ve just got to be able to really focus on it and what he does as a player.”

The Cowboys are confident in Collins’ play.

“We trust our tackles and our offensive line going into the game,” quarterback Dak Prescott said.

Just as Collins doesn’t take any pass rusher for granted, Miller isn’t taking Collins for granted.

Collins is in his first season at right tackle, but has showcased reasons most regarded him as a first-round talent in the 2015 draft before he went undrafted because of off-field concerns.

As stated, Collins held his own against Pierre-Paul in the opener and Oakland’s Khalil Mack in the preseason.

“I wouldn’t say he’s inexperienced,” Miller said. “He went against JPP and did a pretty good job. JPP’s a pretty good pass rusher. We all know what type [of left tackle] Tyron Smith is and the inside guys.

“You always want to go against the best. This is a big-time organization, going to be a big game and these are the games you want to play in.”

Cowboys great and former Bronco DeMarcus Lawrence isn't picking sides this weekend. But he'll be at the game Sunday. Video by Drew Davison.

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison

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