Timing is everything in life and the timing of All-Pro guard Zack Martin’s concussion could not have come at a worse moment for the Dallas Cowboys. As the team prepares to play NFC East rival Washington, the offensive line will be without its best player after losing several starters in the first month of the season.
Martin suffered a concussion early in the loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night and he has been officially ruled out for Sunday’s game. With the league’s protocols on concussions, the Cowboys coming off a short week, and Martin not being able to practice leading up to Sunday’s game, his availability was in question before Dallas made it official on Friday.
Though they can’t afford to miss Martin on the line, the Cowboys couldn’t fool around with Martin’s availability for the rest of the season by suiting him up, and, more importantly, he shouldn’t have attempted to push through and play around with his long-term health. Ultimately, the Cowboys did the right thing by keeping him off the field.
The offensive line for the Cowboys has been ravaged by injuries this season and Martin is the latest member of the group to be sidelined. Connor McGovern, who took over for Martin against the Cardinals, will probably get the start at RG now that the All-Pro Martin can’t go.
Martin not being able to play will likely be a crushing blow for the Cowboys, and he’s not the only offensive lineman for Dallas to show up on the injury report this week. Complicating matters for the line is the news that rookie replacement left tackle Brandon Knight has a knee injury that will also keep him out against the Football Team from Washington.
Knight’s injury will make for the fifth offensive lineman to miss time this season, and the second LT.
Without Martin and Knight, the Cowboys will be down to just one starter from their projected starting lineup when training camp opened. Guard Connor Williams – routinely considered the ‘weak link’ of the group – is the only remaining original offensive lineman still in place.
It’s a bad week to be short handed on the offensive line. The Football Team has one of the better defensive lines in the league and will be a nightmare to deal with, especially on a short week after playing on Monday night. If the Cardinals were able to apply consistent pressure with their defensive front, the Washington defenders could make Sunday’s game extra difficult for Cowboys QB Andy Dalton.
Washington is inside the top 10 in sacks on the year and they got off to a quick start. Their defense feasted on a Philadelphia Eagles offensive line that played mostly backups in Week 1, coming away with eight sacks. Does that situation sound familiar?
Washington has invested a lot of money and draft capital into their defensive front as the line is led by five former first round picks. The group has combined for 10 sacks on the year. Rookie No. 2 overall selection Chase Young has 2.5 sacks in only four games and stands to be a huge problem for Dallas.
Veteran defensive end Ryan Kerrigan will be another obstacle for the Cowboys as he routinely saves his best games for the matchup against Dallas. Kerrigan has the second highest sack total of his career against the Cowboys with 12.5 sacks in 17 games.
Dallas needs their makeshift offensive line to come together quickly. Dalton has mobility, but he doesn’t have as much life in his legs as he used to. If the Cowboys can’t protect Dalton, it’s going to be a long afternoon.
The good news is the Cowboys have spent resources on the line in case injuries reared their head. Williams was a second-round pick, McGovern a third, and rookie center Tyler Biadasz was a fourth-round selection and he could have gone higher if not for an injury during his last year at Wisconsin.
The bad news is the young Dallas linemen are all still a work in progress and the left tackle spot seems unsettled right now.
Football games are won in the trenches and the Cowboys will be at a disadvantage against the Washington defensive line on Sunday. Godspeed, Andy Dalton.
Do you think Andy Dalton will be able to have a good game on Sunday without several starters along the offensive line? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.