Time will tell if the players that Dallas passed on in the first round will make them look foolish. But Zack Martin looks to be a day-one starter who will help the Cowboys defense immediately. How’s that? Did I say defense? Yes, I did.
The 2013 Dallas Cowboys finished dead last in offensive plays from scrimmage, a fact that is often missed as people focus on their historically bad defense.
But when did Dallas’ defense do it’s worst, most horrifying work last year? In the fourth quarter, of course. And what led to this? Were they conspiring to rip your sports heart out of your chest?
No, they were exhausted. The offense failed to hold onto the ball long enough to give them a break. Yes, Dallas scored plenty of points, but they didn’t hold onto the ball.
Dallas ranked 31 in rushing attempts and 26 in time of possession.
If only there were an example of a poor defense that was helped out by it’s offense last year, something comparable to Dallas that fared much better.
That would be San Diego. The Chargers gave up the exact same (horrid) yards per play that Dallas gave up: 6.1. Dallas and San Diego tied for second-worst in the league in that metric.
But San Diego was first in time of possession and 6th in rushing attempts.
So they didn’t expose their sub-par defense like Dallas did. San Diego's defense got more rest and made more plays when it counted, which got them into the postseason.
That isn’t to say that San Diego wasn’t a better defense, they were. They were four percentage points better on the third down, which isn’t as small a difference as it sounds. And they were 11th in points defense. But when your offense leads the league in time of possession, it helps your defense out in every conceivable manner, including scoring defense.
A skeptic might say "Sure, but prove to me that it wasn’t their defense giving them the ball back all the time that helped out their offensive time of possession". A good question, so here is the answer: San Diego finished second only to Denver in converting first downs. They clearly figured out how to extend drives. As far as what they did on defense, they finished 20th in third down percentage and 26th in interceptions, so clearly they weren’t great at getting off the field.
Yet they still dominated time of possession on offense. And they did it while averaging less per rushing attempt than Dallas. A lot less. San Diego ran it for 4 yards a carry. Dallas ran it for 4.5 yards a carry. A big difference.
Which is where Zack Martin comes in. Martin is the tipping point player for the Cowboys offensive line. He’s the third, first-round pick. He makes one of the starters from last year into a backup and his presence should make everyone, from Tony Romo to DeMarco Murray to Lance Dunbar more productive.
There are no more excuses for this offensive coaching staff to eschew the run. They should have run it more last year and everyone, from the coaches to the owner to the fans knows it. Now they will. More than anything, Martin is known as a very physical run blocker.
The time has arrived for Dallas to begin possessing the ball and controlling games with it’s offense.
Having said that, the defense still needs all the fresh talent Dallas can find this weekend and in the months ahead.
But Martin will help both sides of the ball more than most fans will ever understand.