Terence Steele

Cowboys To Start Zack Martin At RT

The Cowboys’ offensive line has been hit hard by injury this year, which is one of the many reasons why the team has limped to a 2-7 start. Fans and pundits alike have called for Dallas to kick stud right guard Zack Martin out to right tackle to help stabilize the unit, and head coach Mike McCarthy has finally seen the light.

As Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network was first to report, Martin will start at RT today for the Cowboys’ matchup with the Vikings (Twitter link). That will force rookie Terence Steele, who has started all nine games for the club this year, to the bench. Though it might be expected for a first-year UDFA, Steele has appeared to be in over his head, and Pro Football Focus ranks him as the worst offensive tackle out of 78 qualified players this season.

So, as Jon Machota of The Athletic tweets, the team will line up Cameron Erving at LT, Connor Williams at LG, Joe Looney at C, and Connor McGovern at RG. This will mark McGovern’s second start of his career.

Despite the Cowboys’ poor record, the club still has a shot to win the incredible-as-it-is-inept NFC East. Backup QB Andy Dalton, who has dealt with a concussion and COVID-19 in the past few weeks, will return to the field this afternoon in a must-win contest, and McCarthy — three weeks after dismissing a Martin move to RT as “fantasy football nonsense” (Twitter link via Machota) — will shake up Dalton’s protection.

As Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News observes, this will be the first time since December 2013 — Martin’s senior season at Notre Dame — that Martin will get a start at tackle (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Tyron Smith Done For Season

Oct 9: Smith will undergo neck surgery and will miss the rest of the season, head coach Mike McCarthy announced this morning (Twitter link via Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). However, he is expected to make a full recovery and plans to be back in action for Week 1 of the 2021 season (Twitter link via Gehlken).

Oct. 8: Tyron Smith played all 82 of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps in their shootout loss to the Browns, but the neck injury that caused the All-Pro left tackle to miss the previous two games continues to be a concern.

The Cowboys are considering placing Smith on IR and are not certain he can continue to play this season, Ed Werder of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Smith indeed suffered a setback with his neck and is gathering medical information. He also is considering the prospect of the injury shutting him down for the rest of the season, Jane Slater and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com report (on Twitter).

This would certainly be a major loss for a Cowboys team that has already seen right tackle La’el Collins shelved for the season. Travis Frederick‘s offseason retirement would leave Zack Martin alone among Dallas’ All-Pro blocking coalition responsible for helping the respective rises of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

The Cowboys are also down center Joe Looney, who left Sunday’s game after the first play. The team confirmed its starting center is dealing with an MCL issue and will miss time. As for Smith, he has gone to seven straight Pro Bowls and joined Martin on the 2010s’ All-Decade team. The 2011 first-round pick has never missed more than three games in a season.

UDFAs Brandon Knight and Terence Steele are expected to be the Cowboys’ left and right tackles, respectively, for the foreseeable future, the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken tweets. A Smith IR stay would mean at least three missed games, pushing his total to a minimum of five absences this season. Even if that ends up being the Cowboys’ move, their offensive line has run into the kind of trouble that it has not faced in many years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.