FRISCO, Texas – With so many questions to answers, this series will take a look at each position on the roster, and what choices might face the front office heading into 2021.
We'll continue on the offensive line, as the Cowboys have some big decisions to make.
Today, we'll focus on guard/center position, a spot that saw major changes last year. Specifically, what should we expect from Zack Martin.
What & Where To Expect Zack Martin
Who would've ever thought this would even be a question at all?
For the first six years of his career, the only real question about Zack Martin was wondering if he'd end up making first- or second-team All-Pro. The Pro Bowl was always a constant, just as his position was at the right guard spot.
Now, let's be fair about this. Had Martin not gotten injured twice and missed six games, there's no doubt he would've again been viewed as one of the very best linemen in the NFL.
In fact, one might argue that Martin was on his way to having his best year because he showed position flex for the first in his career. Because of the Cowboys' issues at offensive tackle, Martin was twice moved to the outside to play right tackle and needless to say, he didn't miss a beat.
When Martin filled in at right tackle in the middle of the Seattle game, the Cowboys actually started moving the ball with success and nearly pulled off a comeback win.
Later in the season, Martin was again moved to tackle when he returned from a concussion and he was flawless in a road win over the Vikings.
But the next game, Martin suffered a calf injury that would ultimately end his season.
So now, here we are in the early stages of the 2021 offseason wondering not only how Martin might return from his injury, but where he'll play.
On the injury front, there are many within the organization that believe Martin had a real shot to play in the season finale against the Giants, but just wasn't at 100 percent and the team didn't want to risk further injury to his calf.
However, had the Cowboys been able to sneak into the playoffs and play the following week, Martin had a good chance to suit up and play.
All that being said, if he seemed close to returning in early January, there's no reason to believe he'll be just fine to return to offseason activities.
Marin missed two games in 2018 and six games this past year, but has also played in all 16 games in his four other seasons.
But healthy or not, is there a chance Martin plays anywhere other than right guard again?
The easy guess is that he'll return to his normal position again. The consensus is that Martin is so good, so talented and so much better than his opponent, that he could probably success at any of the five spots.
So it shouldn't have been a surprise that he shined at right tackle, especially since he was an All-American tackle at Notre Dame.
But assuming that both Tyron Smith and La'el Collins return to action next year from their injuries, the Cowboys should have Martin starting the season inside again.
A better question is if Martin is considered the next-best option and the Cowboys decide to go the route of Martin as the swing tackle.
That question will come down to how good the backups are at tackle vs. guard/center. If the Cowboys like what they've got in the form of Connor McGovern, Connor Williams and perhaps Joe Looney, who is a free agency, then it's possible Martin might be used again at tackle if something happens to Collins or especially Smith, who has battled through neck/shoulder injuries for the last three years.
But the possibility of having a talented player who can slide into other positions in the middle of a game holds strong value. And that's what Martin provides, on top of being one of the greatest guards in the NFL, and one of the best the Cowboys have ever had.
It's not time to be concerned about Martin, who was on his way to having arguably his best season of his already storied career.