Superstar skill players like CeeDee Lamb and Ezekiel Elliott stole the headlines from Sunday's win over the Vikings, but the Cowboys offensive line deserved just as much praise.
It's been a struggle for the once great unit in 2020, losing Travis Frederick to retirement as well as Tyron Smith and La'el Collins to injury for the entire season. They've been shuffling and re-shuffling all year, but Mike McCarthy may have finally found the right combination upfront to unlock this offense.
By replacing Terence Steele with Zack Martin at right tackle, and sliding Connor McGovern into Martin's guard spot, the Cowboys' offensive line found its footing against Minnesota in a big way. They cleared blocking lanes for the best rushing attack Dallas has seen this season, and gave Andy Dalton much more time to throw than he saw during his first two starts.
Cowboys RT Zack Martin didn't allow a single QB pressure Sunday vs. Vikings in his first start at offensive tackle since being named Notre Dame's MVP of the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28, 2013. Also no pressure allowed by RG Connor McGovern and C Joe Looney, per @PFF.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) November 23, 2020
The biggest change in Dallas' offensive line last week was Martin playing out at tackle. Steele had been getting dominated in his reps, but Martin stepped in and looked like a natural. The former All American left tackle at Notre Dame didn't allow a single pressure to the Vikings pass rush. Center Joe Looney and guard Connor McGovern saw similar success.
Now, all of a sudden, there's an energy and excitement about this Cowboys team. The type which could die off very quickly, though, depending on this Thursday's performance.
While the Vikings defensive line is one thing, Washington's front four is a much more fearsome unit. Washington is 7th in defensive DVOA, 9th in EPA per play, and 8th in dropback EPA allowed this season.
Despite their similarly poor record, Washington has drafted a ton of young talent across their defensive front, and will pose a new set of problems for this newly formed Cowboys offensive line. Problems which the group crumbled under back in October.
Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Jonathan Allen. Whew. This will be Martin's biggest test yet at right tackle, but as a Cowboys fan you have to feel confident he will find a way to get it done.