Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant may have been branded as the next set of Dallas Cowboys triplets… but it’s a different Dallas threesome that will determine whether or not this surprising Cowboys team will advance in the 2014 NFL tournament.
Recently anointed All-Pro offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick will be called upon Sunday to control the defensive line of the Detroit Lions, who many believe to be the toughest front in the game today. The Lions defense has only allowed an NFL best 69.3 yards per game this year.
The O-Line of Dallas, on the other hand, has led the way for a Cowboys rushing attack that has produced 147.1 rushing yards per game, good for 2nd in the league in 2014.
On Sunday in Arlington Texas, something must give.
If the Cowboys are to prevail, the offensive line must perform much better than they did last season when they were dominated in Detroit in Week 8. While the Lions won the game 31-30, a closer look at the box score reveals a much more lop-sided victory.
Dallas tried rushing the ball 26 times and only managed to travel 62 yards on those carries. That 2.4 yards per carry average will simply not cut it this Sunday.
Thankfully for Dallas, this is not the same 2013 offensive line. Tyron Smith was only 23 at the time, the age of many senior college offensive lineman. Rookie center Travis Frederick was only making his 8th start in the league and Zack Martin was enjoying his senior season as a second term captain for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
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While the added experience of Smith and Frederick is important, the addition of Zack Martin may prove to be the biggest edge for Dallas. This week Martin became the only NFL rookie to be named to the NFL All-Pro first team. Martin is the first Cowboys rookie in 45 years to be named All-Pro. Former Cowboys greats Calvin Hill and Bob Hayes are the only other Dallas rookies to receive that honor.
In their 2013 battle in Detroit, Dallas started Brian Waters at right guard. The aging veteran Waters was injured in that game and replaced by Mackenzy Bernadeau. Waters has since retired from league. The addition of Martin at right guard this season has been a huge upgrade. Well worth the first round draft pick that many thought on draft day to be a reach.
Digging in opposite Martin for most plays on Sunday will be another first team All-Pro selection, Ndamukong Suh. Suh, 70 grand lighter in the wallet after being fined for stepping on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in last Sunday’s loss to the Packers, will surely be up for the battle of All-Pros.
Given Suh will become a free agent at the end of this season, Suh has millions of reasons to prove his worth to the many NFL teams that will surely be in the market for a dominate defensive tackle.
While the Cowboys gain Martin, the Lions maybe be without defensive tackle Nick Fairley. The former first round draft pick and fourth year pro Fairley is recovering from a knee injury and will mostly likely not play this Sunday.
If Romo, Murray, and Bryant are to have yet another outstanding performance and carry America’s Team into the next round of the playoffs, it will be the Trench Triplets of Smith, Frederick, and Martin that will pave the way.