The Dallas Cowboys have announced a major shakeup to their offensive line
The Dallas Cowboys have finally made a change at right tackle and will start Zack Martin there for this afternoon’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. Martin is a six-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, and member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2010s at right guard, this start will be the first of his professional career at right tackle.
Martin will take over for rookie tackle Terence Steele. Steele came to Dallas as an undrafted free agent this offseason out of Texas Tech. Injuries to starter La’el Collins and multiple backup linemen threw him into the starting lineup far earlier than the Cowboys ever would have liked.
To be frank, Steele has looked lost out there. While he hasn’t had a game where someone beats him for six sacks the way former Cowboys tackle Chaz Green did, he’s been routinely dominated by even average pass rushers.
The decision to start Martin over Steele is a stark reversal of the plans the Cowboys have laid out all season. Earlier this month head coach Mike McCarthy said this about kicking Martin out to right tackle:
The Cowboys have not yet announced who will start at right guard this afternoon, but Connor McGovern appears to be the obvious choice. Dallas drafted McGovern out of Penn State in the third round of 2019’s draft. He missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle. He’s a versatile player with the ability to step in all along the offensive line if needed. He’s also played 141 snaps this season, and almost all of those came in place of an injured Zach Martin at right guard.
The offensive line has been a talking point in Dallas for a bit now. Formally the best offensive line in football, they’ve shown cracks in recent years. This season, All-Pro center Travis Frederick’s retirement along with injuries to star tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins have wiped away any consistency and three-fourths of their elite talent. While Martin has held up as his usual All-Pro self this season, without Smith and Collins the Cowboys have been bullied upfront game in and game out.
Martin has experience at tackle, largely playing there on the left side for Notre Dame throughout his college career. The few series he’s played there this season have shown he hasn’t missed a beat. This is a move that should immediately upgrade the Cowboys’ offensive line and open up their playbook.
While McGovern hasn’t played a ton of snaps this year, he certainly looked more comfortable at right guard than Steele did at tackle. A combination of McGovern and Martin is both worth a shot and appears on the surface to be an immediate upgrade.
This move makes it feel as if fans can also put to bed any talk that the Dallas Cowboys are trying to tank. This is not the type of change that a team makes when the only race they are trying to win is the race for the top pick in the draft. Instead, this feels like the kind of move a team makes when they are trying to save their season.
The Cowboys see a clear path to win a very bad division if they are able to rattle off a couple of victories. Given how hamstrung the playcalling has been by poor offensive line play this season, it does feel worth a shot.
The move to start Martin at right tackle over Terence Steele is a long overdue one for the Dallas Cowboys. This is a smart move that should give quarterback Andy Dalton some more time to throw the ball and open up the playbook to try some new things. With their season very much on life support, the Dallas Cowboys are still fighting.