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Eatman: If Martin Pans Out, Defense Just Got Better, Too

Posted May 20, 2014


IRVING, Texas – In these last four months, I don’t know if anyone covering this team has lobbied so hard for the Cowboys to take a defensive player in the first round.

If you’ve got the worst defense in the NFL, the worst in franchise history and one of the five worst in NFL history, then when you add in losing DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, and of course Sean Lee’s injury history has to be factored in as well, obviously you need help on defense. And it goes a lot further than just switching coordinators.

The only possible exception to taking a defensive player, in my opinion, was to take an offensive lineman. I’m at least on record as saying that before the draft, although I was adamant that you had to improve the defense. And clearly, the Cowboys wanted to do just that. They had Anthony Barr, Ryan Shazier and Aaron Donald up there as the top-three targets with Zack Martin a close fourth. And really, he was only listed as fourth because of the necessity to get better on defense.

But when those three defensive guys all went off the board, the focus shifted back to BPA (Best Player Available) and Martin was the guy.

So, not exactly helping the defense, right? Well, that’s where I disagree.

And if you think this is a stretch or just a Silver & Blue way to look at it, just hear me out.

When we think back to how the season ended, the Eagles game immediately comes to mind. Kyle Orton brought the team back, but then gave it away with two poor throws – first on the 2-point conversion pass where he wanted Dez Bryant to do a push-up before catching the low ball, and secondly on the slant pass to Miles Austin that was two yards behind him.

That’s what I remember about the Cowboys missing out on the playoffs. However, if Tony Romo wouldn’t have hit DeMarco Murray in the flat on fourth-and-goal the week before in Washington, then we’re not talking about Philly – at all. We’re talking about the fact the Cowboys had first-and-goal from the 4, then second-and-goal from the 1 against the Redskins and couldn’t punch it in.

Say what you want about the offensive line’s improvement in 2013, but the fact is, they still had trouble running the ball on short-yardage and goal-line situations. And oftentimes, the success in those times came from running the ball wide on stretch plays.

When it comes to lining up, knocking people off the ball and running it down someone’s throat, the Cowboys just can’t do that consistently.

In games like Detroit and Green Bay, the Cowboys had those won but couldn’t run out the clock. They couldn’t do enough on offense in the final stages. Yeah, we put those on the defense, and rightfully so, but if this team could simply run the football in late situations, then the defense never gets a chance to blow the lead.

Let’s be honest, those Cowboys defenses in the 1990s were pretty good, but never truly dominant. They had their moments, but to me, the best defense was a result of Emmitt Smith and that crew eating up yards and the clock late in games.

And that’s where Martin and this offensive line comes back into the mix. If the Cowboys can simply run the football, especially late in games, it will help this defense dramatically.

Now, give the Cowboys plenty of credit for sticking to their needs later in the draft and taking seven defensive players out of nine picks.

But if this Zack Martin guy works out like they’re hoping he will on offense, the defensive might improve in a major way as well.

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