IRVING, Texas– For roughly a month, the Cowboys' vaunted offensive line has been the topic of nearly-endless conversation.
After all, the organization's decision to draft Ezekiel Elliott hinged heavily on the talented blockers paving the way for him. As the common logic goes: running behind this offensive line, there's no limit to what Elliott and the Dallas offense can achieve.
It's a lofty ambition – particularly for an offensive line that prefers to be seen and not heard. But speaking together at Tuesday's Reliant Home Run Derby, the Cowboys' Pro Bowl linemen insisted it's business as usual.
"For us, there's no pressure because everything that we do has to live up to our standard in our room," Frederick said. "So, everything that we do is geared to making sure that we're the best individually that we possibly can be and then collectively as a group the best that we can be."
There's no denying the talent in offensive line coach Frank Pollack's meeting room, be it two-time Pro Bowlers Frederick and Zack Martin or three-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith. That doesn't even include a nine-year veteran in Doug Free, or one of the game's most promising young talents in La'el Collins.
Given that fact, there's plenty of mention of the "standard" – as Frederick noted. With the amount of resources committed to the offensive line, and the level to which it has played in the past two seasons, that standard isn't something its members take lightly.
"The standard for us is going to be the hardest working group on our team," Smith said. "Just try to go about things to right way and do the best that we can."
The expectations will be big, and it'll be apparent how well the unit is meeting them this year. In addition to opening holes for Elliott, the offensive line will be tasked with helping to protect Tony Romo, who is returning from a four-game, injury-plagued campaign in 2015.
Regardless of individual success – Smith, Frederick and Martin all reached the Pro Bowl in 2015 – there's no denying the disappointments of last fall. To that end, Martin said the offensive line didn't measure up in its last time out.
"I think that obviously we didn't. We won four games," he said. "So, we didn't hit the standard last year. We have a lot to get better at. We're looking forward to that."
The Cowboys won't be looking forward much longer. Phase 2 of the offseason program is about to conclude, and the first set of OTAs begins on May 24. It'll mark the first time since January that the offense and defense will work with each other – highlighted by the veterans' first real chance to play with Elliott in the backfield.
"Obviously he's a special talent. We took him that high, so obviously we're excited he's here," Martin said.
Whatever the outside narrative might be, it doesn't sound like the expectations will weigh heavily when the business of football begins. Asked about that fact, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett expressed the utmost confidence in that fact.[embeddedad0]
"They have a lot of great character guys, great personal character guys, great football character guys. So, when you bring younger players in, they kind of understand what the culture is at that position group right away," he said. "We're fortunate to have them. They can be the heartbeat of our football team. They respond to that responsibility really well."