There aren't many certainties in life. However, when it comes to performing at a high level for an offensive lineman, Zack Martin has been the standard since he entered the NFL in 2014. His combination of size, power, and mauler-like mentality has helped the Dallas Cowboys have one of the better offensive lines in the league for several years.
2020 saw Martin miss more time than he ever as a calf strain and a concussion kept him on the sidelines for six games (only missed two games in his first six seasons). Even with this setback, Martin proved that he's as complete as any offensive lineman in the league. So much so, that when ESPN recently released its top 10 interior offensive lineman rankings it was no surprise that Martin was right at the very top, coming in at No. 2 behind Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts.
ESPN Staff Writer Jeremy Fowler on Martin's ranking:
“Arguably the most complete guard of the past decade put together a complete body of work in 2020. In 10 games, Martin posted a stellar 91.3 Pro Football Focus grade, and he ranked in the top four among guards in run-block win rate (76.7%) and pass-block win rate (95.9%).”
There's been quite the debate between Martin and Nelson for supremacy when it comes to interior lineman/guards for the last few seasons. They have finished in the top two spots on several lists over that span with Nelson slightly edging out Martin, including earlier this year when Pro Football Focus ranked its top 32 guards entering the 2021 season. Nonetheless, despite the dominance of Nelson over the last few years, Martin is still neck and neck with him in terms of who is the best at their position by evaluators.
Don't just take their word for it though. Players who line up in the trenches against Martin no better than anyone about how dominant he is every season, and one veteran defensive player had some glowing praise when asked about how the former first-round pick gets busy on the football field.
“He's got it all,” he said. “There's really no weakness. The only thing that can stop him is injuries, and even then, he basically looks the same.”
The Cowboy's offensive line was ravaged by injuries last season. Tyron Smith and La'el Collins missed 30 games combined, but it was the injury to the latter that allowed Martin to display just how great he is. He slid over to the right tackle spot in the absence of Collins and looked every bit of the All-Pro he is every season at the guard spot.
Martin's dominance shouldn't be taken for granted. In 2019, Martin became only the sixth player in history to have at least four first-team All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls in his first six seasons. The other players on that list are Lawrence Taylor, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Patrick Willis, and Aaron Donald. Also, he became only the third offensive lineman to receive four first-team All-Pro selections in his first six seasons, joining Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz and Larry Allen.
From Week 14 of the 2018 season through the entire 2019 season, Martin didn't allow a sack over that span and only surrendered one in 2020. Also, he wasn't flagged for a penalty last season and he's only been flagged five times over the last five seasons. With only 17 penalties in his seven-year career, it's clear that Martin has the discipline to go along with his dominance.
Big, nasty, physical, and technically sound. That's Martin in a nutshell, and at only 30 years of age, he has plenty of years left to continue his elite-level play and pave his road to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.