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Tale Of The Tape: Zack Martin

An All-22 review of rookie Zack Martin's game against the Redskins.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It's my fault. Or more accurately, my bosses fault. I have watched every game this year live, sporting my Cowboy's sweats. Every game but two. I didn't wear the sweats during the first game, a loss against the 49er's. And I didn't even watch Monday night's game until early Thursday morning. Due to layoffs I had to work Monday night, Game Rewind didn't have the game available until Wednesday, and I worked from 8 a.m. till 10 p.m. that day. Suffice to say, I didn't get to watch the game. Which is how I discovered my deadly gift/curse; when I watch the game wearing my gear we win. When I don't we lose. With all respects to Tom, I'm the Goatmouth 2.0. I swear to use this power only for good.

Let's just hope my boss never realizes; he's a Denver fan.

So I'm doing the review a little differently this week. It's pretty hard to give an interesting written description of 65 offensive guard snaps, so I'm only going to write about ones interesting enough to break down on film. I did watch and grade every snap Zack Martin took however. The grading was simple; every play earned a -1, -1/2, 0, +1/2 or +1.  I added them all up, and "normed" them on a 1-10 graded scale, for an overall game grade of 7.7. Martin had a great game, by my count he only had five negative plays all game. And most of those weren't glaringly bad. Anyway, let's look at the tape!

Play 4: This play is a good example of how well Dallas's line held up in normal, (non-blitz), pass protection. Below we see Martin lined up at right guard, with the Redskins in their base 3-4 look.

play 4 (1)

Next we see Martin locked up with defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. Martin didn't get a very good initial punch, but he's got a great base, and more importantly his hands are inside Jenkins body; he's winning the battle. You can also see that Martin is actually directing Jenkins towards our RT Jeremy Parnell, and Parnell is preparing to receive him. This is pretty fantastic teamwork

play 4 (2)

Below you can see the finished transition, Martin has successfully passed off the DE and is looking for someone else to block:

play 4 (3)

This leads to a pretty funny series of events; Martin almost knocks down Murray who is heading out into his route, (Murray actually kind of shoves Martin off of him), before engaging in the double team of the NT with Travis Frederick. I think the next picture is hilarious, and I'm actually not sure how it's not a blocking in the back foul. I really wonder if Travis and Frederick are both actually pushing him in two separate directions; I can only imagine how much pressure the two could exert if they were actually squeezing the NT between them:

play 4 (4)

Play 6: Again we're going to see the Redskins come out in their base 3-4 package.

6 (1)

This is a running play, and Parnell and Martin are going to double team the guard. I mentioned in my Tyron Smith write up that our line plays better going horizontally than vertically, and we can see that again here; while Parnell and Martin have a decent block on the DE, they certainly haven't moved him much. Keep an eye on the two linebackers, circled in red as well.

6 (2)

I think that Martin is supposed to peel off of the double team and block #52. However, the Skins have dialed up the blitz and both linebackers come crashing through the A gap between Martin and Fredbeard. Zack might have slowed them down, but he doesn't actually get a block on either one.

6 (3)

This is a case of the blitz biting the Redskins in the butt. Murray has cleared the A gap before the linebackers can get through it, giving him a lot of running room to work with in the 2nd level.

6 (4)

Not a great play by Zack Martin, but good enough; he does well with the initial double team, and probably slowed down the blitzing linebackers enough to allow Murray to get across them.

Play 8: Dallas comes out in an old-school I formation.

play 8 (1)

Below we can see the lateral movement I was talking about, instead of firing straight ahead the offensive line is trying to get the defense to move horizontally. So far so good, Martin and Parnell have gotten good blocks, (look at 64's legs; all his weight is being distributed to the outside). Fredbeard has gotten across the NT and "hooked him". There is a nice lane forming for Murray.


Next we can see that our FB Clutt's is ready to engage the LB. Murray is keying off of that block, looking to run in the gap between Clutts and Martin, (yellow arrow). But check out the red circle. Fredbeard struggled against 3-4 NT's last year, and below we can see that Chris Baker has turned Frederick sideways giving him access to the backfield.


Here's where things break down. Martin is still firmly in control of his man, (yellow arrow). Clutts hasn't exactly knocked the linebacker out of the hole, but he has gotten him down, (circle). Fredbeard however is beat, and his man is meeting Murray in the backfield.


If this next picture weren't an indication of a lost play it would be funny. Parnell and Martin are dominating their guys; everyone else, not so much.


So this is what could have been if Frederick had maintained his block. Martin is blocking till the whistle, and downfield Witten has done a good job of creating a lane. This could have been a big play.


Play 9: This is a pretty crazy play from a scheme standpoint. The Redskins come out showing a 4-3 nickel look, with Ryan Clark (red circle) coming in for a linebacker.


And from here it gets crazy. The first thing to notice is that it appears as if the Cowboys are pass blocking; they don't fire off from their stance either horizontally or vertically, instead the tackles and centers go into their pass block sets, and Martin crashes down on the tackle while Ronald Leary is pulling behind the center. Check out the two linebackers in the red circles; 56 is shooting the gap and looks like he may have an opening to make the play while 52 appears confused by the pass protection sets and is still diagnosing the play.


And it gets even crazier. Brandon Meriweather, (blue circle) is flying in off the edge, locked in on Tony Romo, (who is executing a beautiful play fake). Frederick has somehow picked up the rushing linebacker while keeping his block on the DT, (red arrow), and Martin has come over to seal off the seam Murray is coming through, (yellow arrow). The only potential problem is that it appears 99 has beaten Parnell, (blue arrow). Finally #52 is still standing still. He thinks it's play action and is attempting to read Romo.


So the first thing I want to point out is that Romo is still executing his play fake, (yellow circle). Merriweather has finally realized it is a run and is flattening his angle, (blue circle), but it's too late. Martin and Fredbeard have effectively sealed off the backside of the run, and the pulling Leary has blocked out 99. The linebacker 52 has realized it is a run and looks to be in position to make the play:


However Jeremy Parnell has turned a complete loop, (athleticism is the strongest part of his game, and crashes down to knock 52 out of the play. This is an amazing bit of blocking all around, and Murray picks up a big chunk of yardage.



Play 10: Again we see the Skins in a 4-3 nickel, only this time it's Brandon Merriweather instead of Ryan Clark.


Dallas is running play action. Parnell and Martin get a good initial double team against Jarvis Jenkins. But pay attention to #56 Perry Riley, as he's going to cause some problems later on.


So two things are going on below. First, Martin and Parnell are keeping their double team, but look at Parnell's eye's he has spotted Riley looking like he is coming in on a rush. Secondly it looks like Leary has whiffed on his block of #97 Jason Hatcher, who appears to have a clean shot at the QB.


Below we see that Tyron Smith has picked up Jason Hatcher, (yellow circle). Meanwhile Perry Riley is threatening to rush, and Parnell has kicked his back leg out to adjust, (he's disengaging from the double team and resetting into his pass block stance to pick up Riley).


While Parnell is resetting Martin, (who doesn't realize that Parnell is disengaging), has fully extended his arms and pushed Jenkins away. Meanwhile Riley backs off of his rush and locks onto DeMarco Murray who is entering a route.


Unfortunately that extension from Martin, coupled with Parnell's disengagement creates a gap that Jarvis Jenkins is able to sneak through. This penetration occurs at the same time that James Hanna begins to lose his block against Ryan Kerrigan.


To his credit, Hanna is able to regain his block against Ryan Kerrigan, (and that bears noting, Hanna blocking Kerrigan 1 on 1), Martin and Parnell however are beat clean.


Play 12: This is a really interesting play, and a great play design by Linehan. We see the Redskins in a 4-2 nickel look.


It looks like this is a handoff to Murray around the edge with Martin pulling and leading the way.


Both the linebackers think so as they flow that way. But Martin stops, and instead goes into a pass protection set, squared off against Ryan Kerrigan, as Jason Witten runs by the Redskins linebackers.



Martin does a good job locking up with Kerrigan, and Witten has a ton of room to work with. This could have been a big play, but Romo's pass sails high, (something that happened quite a bit this game).


Play 16: This is another interesting play, and one I haven't seen this season. It started as kind of a draw play, with Romo turning almost a full circle before coming back around and giving the ball to Lance Dunbar. You can see it's got the linebackers off balance as they are slow to react, and in the 2nd picture you can actually see Ryan Clark's weight is distributed backwards as he had begun to backpedal thinking pass:



So you can see that Zack Martin, (yellow arrow) has just locked his man up. He's got great form, and he's just not budging. Much more interesting is what's going on with Tyron Smith, (red circle), who is playing an almost screen technique, letting his block get upfield, past Lance Dunbar, before releasing from him and starting downfield to block at the 2nd level:


Just take a moment to enjoy this picture. This is our line, just dominating in one on one blocking. The only two players who haven't absolutely stonewalled their opponents are Tyron Smith, (moving in space), and Zack Martin, but Martin is still firmly in control of his block. And pity poor Ryan Clark, whom Smith is locked in on, (with Dunbar, who made a beautiful cut, crossing behind him).


The end result is pretty funny. Instead of taking on Smith Ryan Clark just turns around and presents his backside. Meanwhile our jitterbug, Lance Dunbar, has a lane you could drive a tank through. It should be a huge gain, and it is, right until Lance Dunbar fumbles for no real reason. Hilarious.


Play 21: This play is a stretch run, the staple of the old Manning era Colts. You can see the entire line moving to the left:


All the linemen do a good job of getting on their blocks, (including Martin, yellow arrow). All of them but Fredbeard, who allows way to much penetration.


You can see in the yellow circle where the play was supposed to end up. Their is great blocking, and a ton of lanes for Murray to choose from. But because of Fredbeard's poor initial block, Murray can't make it to his spot, and has to cut back. The only lane available for him is to try and squeeze between Martin and Parnell.


It's a pretty nasty situation for Murray made worse by the fact that Parnell doesn't recognize what has happened. If Parnell had, he could turn and seal off the edge, giving Murray a larger lane. Luckily for Murray, Martin decides to go beast mode and just bulldozes his man out of the hole, opening up a pretty good lane and allowing Murray to turn a busted play into a small positive gain.


Play 24: This play is an excellent example of one of Martin's biggest strengths; pulling and blocking in space, (I suspect playing the tackle position in college helped him with this). The play starts with the Skins in a four man front. Frederick and Leary double team one DT, and Tyron Smith takes another, while Jason Witten is left alone to handle the DE, (something Dallas has done quite successfully this season).



Instead of just double teaming the DE, Martin does a good job of leading Murray out wide, then blocking the linebacker in space. Coupled with a good block by Terrance Williams, this is a big gain for Murray.


The next couple dozen or so plays are fairly unremarkable, (a lot of them are quick throws in the 2 minute offense). Martin only has one "negative play" play 27, where he gets to the second level, but doesn't actually block anyone. It also has no effect on the game. We pick back up at...

Play 42: This is the only play that I charted where Martin just flat out gets beat, (I have one video clip of him being beat, but it's just the end of the play, and I didn't label it correctly, I think it is play 38 when he gives up a sack on a stunt but I'm not sure). Regardless, this is his worst play in pass protection this game.  You can see that he never gets his back foot set, (red arrow):


and he just gets beat around the edge. Nothing incredibly special, no stunt, no great play by the defense, just a bad set by Martin.


Play 44:  This is an important play, coming right after Romo gets hurt. The Redskins come out in an interesting formation, with 3 DL, an OLB on the line, and Brandon Meriweather playing in the box like an LB.


Another run to the edge, another lead block by a pulling Zack Martin. I love seeing Martin's eye's. You can see him actually surveying the field, not just looking straight ahead.


Ron Leary does a great job hooking his man inside, and Witten gets to the 2nd level to block the linebacker. Tyron does his Tyron stuff, and Murray has a beautiful tunnel to run through with only Brandon Merriweather at the end and Martin acting like a fullback. It's pretty. Oh so pretty.


Play 47: The infamous 3rd and goal.  We'll see here how pressure forced Weeden to throw a little sooner than he probably wanted to, giving the Corner the chance to make a play.  Right from the beginning Washington is showing blitz with seven on the line:


Martin does a good job of taking 73 out of the play. Strangely, Parnell does not opt to block the inside threats from the two linebackers, instead taking the outside threat of the DE. This leaves Murray with two linebackers shooting through the gap:


And now Murray does an interesting thing; he takes on #25 Perry Riley, instead of the inside threat #56, (it could be argued Riley was the more immediate threat). I think that Murray was expecting, (hoping?), for Martin to come off his block and help out as Martin has done a good job of pushing his man into the scrum.


It would be a heck of a play, but it looks like Martin could reset and at least get a push on 56. Alas it doesn't happen, 56 comes clean, and Weeden, (notoriously skittish in the pocket while in Cleveland), throws the ball a bit too early.

Play 48: I know it's not the most popular opinion right now, but I just want to say I really liked a lot of what Linehan did this game. It's fair criticism to say he didn't run enough. But it's also fair to say that he showed us a lot of things we haven't seen before, and that's going to give upcoming defensive coordinators headaches. It's not just brand new plays, (like the strange draw to Dunbar), but new blocking schemes for traditional plays, like we see here. The Redskins come out with four down lineman and three linebackers, one standing up on the line:


Dallas runs a simple power run to the three gap, but the blocking scheme is pretty interesting. Parnell and Jason Witten both block in, while Martin kicks out and picks up the blitzing Brandon Merriweather off the edge:


Martin just rides Merriweather outside like he's a tackle in pass protection. Meanwhile Tyler Clutts is leading Murray to the edge:


Clutts gets a good enough block on the linebacker, and yes, that'sMartin's safety a good 5 yards behind a play that hasn't crossed the line of scrimmage yet. It's the little things that make football fun!


Play 53: Another play, another strange defensive formation from the Redskins. Doesn't bother Zach Martin though, who does a good job with his initial punch in pass protection:



This turns out to be a screen pass, and Martin is tasked with leading the way. He's smooth slipping off his block and working downfield. Now for an added little wrinkle, check out Cole Beasley cutting across the opposite way in front of the linebackers. This effectively freezes the 'backer's, even if they read the screen they can't just head that way and leave the Hobbit uncovered. A small but effective twist to a basic screen. Without the linebackers, there is only the safety in the area, and Martin soon takes care of him.




This is the kind of open running room OC's and RB's dream about.


What Does It Mean?

Some people have claimed that Zack Martin is already the best player on the offensive line. For a line that contains Tyron Smith that's a pretty big claim, but Martin is definitely good. He plays excellent in space, something a lot of guards struggle with. He did a good job holding up one on one, and working combo blocks with Parnell. He made a few minor mental mistakes and one big one, but at least today Martin more than lived up to the hype.

Well fellow BTB'ers, that's my rundown on Zack Martin. What do you think? And who would you like to see a breakdown of next?

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