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O-Line's Success Not Affected By Influx of Youth

The Cowboys are on board with the gameplan – not to mention the mantra that goes with it.

IRVING, Texas – When you stop and think about it, the Cowboys' amazing feat this season is just Zack Martin's day-to-day.

Since the start of the season, the Cowboys have rushed for at least 123 yards in each of their seven games, and they've maxed out at 220, against Tennessee. They're averaging 160 per contest, which leads the league.

That's pretty astounding for an offense that has been unable or reluctant to run the ball on plenty of occasions in recent years. For Martin, getting set to start just the eighth game of his career, it's an entirely different perspective.

"I'm not entirely sure, because I don't even know what else there is," Martin said of that success. "That's been an emphasis since the season started, since training camp, and we work very hard at it. I know we're going to keep working at it and keep going, and hopefully we can keep it up."

The focus is evident, considering DeMarco Murray set an NFL record last weekend by putting up a seventh-straight 100-yard game to open the season. Cowboys coaches, spearheaded by head coach Jason Garrett, have stressed a commitment to the ground game, and it's proven true.

Murray has carried the rock at least 22 times in every game this season, and he's gone for 28 or more in four of seven games.

"The motto – and Coach Linehan always harps on it, and Coach Garrett and Callahan and Pollack – but patience with the running game has been one of the most important things," Martin said. "We know we're going to have those two, three-yard runs, but if we keep grinding them, keep grinding them, the bigger runs will come."

As a result, this offensive line is drawing unprecedented praise for units that are typically overlooked as a general rule. It obviously helps that Martin is the latest in a stretch of three first-round draft picks since 2011, accompanied by Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.

As Frederick himself pointed out, the Cowboys' recent run of success doesn't seem likely to deter their focus. It hasn't quite been two months since Dallas was widely picked to finish among the worst teams in the league, and it doesn't seem like that's been forgotten during the win streak.

"I really, truly believe that the group that we have here kind of embodies that 'Fight' mentality and just comes to work every day – that's our job," Frederick said. "You have to come with the same demeanor every day, because we're not different people. We're not different players than we were six weeks ago when everyone said that we were terrible."

That mentality, which Garrett has preached about since July, seems evident when you watch the Dallas offense play. Speaking to reporters on Monday following the Giants win, Garrett called out his rookie guard by name in that regard.

"Watch Zack Martin. Zack Martin is always running to the ball and picking the guy up," he said. "Great moments in that game last week in Seattle where DeMarco scores and there's six offensive players just around him, almost carrying him into the back of the end zone. Those are really positive things."

Martin is a piece of that, but everyone throwing blocks for this Cowboys offense – including tight ends and receivers – appears to have bought in. None more so than the line itself, which is consistently credited for being as close-knit as a unit can be, working out together in the offseason and eating dinner together on Thursday nights during game week.

"I think, if you talk to most offensive linemen, one of the most important things to having success would be having a tight group, and I'd say this is one of the tightest groups I've been a part of," Martin said. "That just comes from the top – the leadership makes sure we're doing stuff like that."

That leadership, the likes of eight-year veteran Doug Free and Pro Bowler Tyron Smith, are more of the silent types. It's interesting to note that the line's two newest members, Frederick and Martin, do the majority of the talking.

That's not likely to matter, though. Young and old, the Cowboys are on board with the gameplan – not to mention the mantra that goes with it.

"I think we have guys who understand the importance of doing their job. A lot of times their job isn't always the most glamorous thing to do. It is the dirty work," Garrett said. "I think they understand that that helps us have success on that particular play and ultimately have success as a football team."

Added Martin: "It's a work in progress, and each week we always say we're judged by that week."

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