FRISCO, Texas – The news caught everyone else off guard – except for the actual guard himself.
Hours before kickoff against Minnesota, it was revealed that Zack Martin – who has been named All-Pro at right guard in all six of his NFL seasons – would be moving one spot over to right tackle.
The move may have been a surprise for some, but not the guy doing the job.
"Monday, when we came back from the bye week, they told me they were going to make a switch," Martin said. "So I knew this whole week of preparation."
This idea didn't exactly come out of left field. Injury issues necessitated that Martin make the switch all the way back in Week 3, during the Cowboys' 38-31 loss to Seattle. The perennial Pro Bowler played well enough to prompt plenty of conversation about Martin taking over full-time for Terence Steele, who has manned the right side of the line all season.
Up to this point, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy had been resistant to the idea, but he said following the game that he was trying to find the best possible starting five.
"It's really the combination of players. That's always the goal," McCarthy said. "That's no different than with this particular lineup. Hopefully, it's a healthy combination and we can come back tomorrow and hopefully we can build off of it."
As has been well-covered by now, Martin was an All-American left tackle during a decorated career at Notre Dame. It's not as if the switch was completely new to him. Even still, having a full week to prepare for the Vikings' edge rushers paid dividends.
"It was huge," he said. "It gives you a week, not only to get the reps out there, but also when you're studying you're opponent, studying the guys you're going to go against. That was big to get notice of where I was going to play."
The results are hard to argue with. It'd be unfair to give Martin all the credit, as just one member of the offensive line. But it's completely fair to suggest that this may have been the best game of the season for a unit that has dealt with plenty of adversity.
Sunday was easily the Cowboys' best rushing performance of the year, as they ground the Vikings down for 180 yards – highlighted by Ezekiel Elliott's first 100-yard performance of the season. If that wasn't enough, they also paved the way for a 42-yard rushing touchdown from Tony Pollard, and they only allowed Andy Dalton to be sacked once.
"We'll have to watch the tape, but I think we were able to stick with the run – obviously get Zeke going, got Tony going," Martin said. "Having Andy back there was huge. It was just a good performance by our whole team."
Martin has never been one to seek out credit, so he was sure to praise his linemates on multiple occasions. Fortunately, Elliott did him the favor of throwing some praise on the six-time Pro Bowler.
"He probably could play any position on the O-Line and be dominant. That's rare," Elliott said. "A lot of those runs today were behind Zack, and we know he's the strength of our offense. We kept running it behind him, and he kept moving them out the way."
As McCarthy said, the goal now is to build off that success. With six games remaining, Martin said he wasn't sure about his long-term outlook. But with Washington awaiting on a short week, it sounds like you can expect him to see him in this new spot once again on Thursday.
"I'm sure this week I'll be out there again, and I guess we'll just kind of see how it goes throughout the season," he said.