Cowboys DeMarco Key? Guard Zack Martin

How does DeMarco stack up against the all-time single-season rushers? Very well. What is a key difference for Dallas as he rushes to glory? The presence of rookie guard Zack Martin. A look inside their numbers as you ready for Cowboys-at-Seahawks:



Chancellor is in for the Seahawks. Unger is out. McClain is in for Dallas ... and the running game needs to be "in,'' too.

The NFL's leading rusher (670 yards) and the NFL's top rushing offense (800 yards).. If I had told you before the season started that these stats would belong to the Cowboys through 1/3 of the season, most of you would've looked at me like I was insane. Well, believe it or not, those stats are 100-percent true. DeMarco Murray is off to the best start by a Cowboys RB in franchise history. In fact, Murray joined O.J. Simpson and Jim Brown as the only three running backs in NFL history to rush for 100+ yards in 5-consecutive games to start a season. Cowboys fans are literally watching history in the making.

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DeMarco Murray's stats through the first 5 games of the 2014 season
Yards: 670
Touchdowns: 5
100-yard games: 5

The most yards that any running back has had in a single season is 2,105 by Eric Dickerson in 1984. DeMarco Murray is on pace for 2,144. Here is a list of the top 10 rushing seasons in NFL history:

Eric Dickerson - 2,105 in 1985
Adrian Peterson - 2,097 in 2012
Jamal Lewis - 2,066 in 2003
Barry Sanders - 2,053 in 1997
Terrell Davis - 2,008 in 1998
Chris Johnson - 2,006 in 2009
O.J. Simpson - 2,003 in 1973
Earl Campbell - 1,934 in 1980
Barry Sanders - 1,883 in 1994
Ahman Green - 1,883 in 2003

Through the first 5 games of each of these player's record breaking seasons, they averaged 565 yards, 4 touchdowns and three 100-yard games. That's 105 less yards, 1 less touchdown and 2 less 100-yard games than DeMarco Murray currently has this season. Also, only two of these players (OJ Simpson and Jamal Lewis) had more yards than Murray through the first 5 games, and only 3 (Terrell Davis, OJ Simpson and Ahman Green) had more touchdowns than Murray.

As good as DeMarco Murray has been, the Dallas Cowboys would not be having this kind of success on the ground without their dominant offensive line (which fans have dubbed "The Great Wall 2") specifically their first-round left tackle, first-round center and first-round rookie guard.

It's clear that the Cowboys have put a high priority on bolstering their o-line over the last few years, using 3 of their last 4 first round picks on O-linemen. As you can see, it's paid off big time. Tyron Smith has become arguably the best offensive tackle in the NFL, giving up just 2 sacks in the last 25 games. Travis Frederick is also quickly turning into one of the best players at his position. So far this season, Frederick has allowed just 3 QB hurries with 0 QB hits or sacks, all of which are the best in the league among centers. The most recent first-rounder, rookie Zack Martin, has quietly put together a very impressive start to his professional career. As we approach today's game at the Seattle Seahawks, here is a look at Zack Martin's stats through the first 5 games this season (pass-protection stats below, as Martin's work as a run-blocker seems almost self-evident):

QB Hits: 1
QB Hurries: 3
Sacks: 0
Penalties: 1

Those numbers are impressive for any offensive lineman, but even more so for a rookie. But how do these numbers compare to the Cowboys other first-round O-linemen through the first 5 games of their careers (stats per Pro Football Focus)?

Tyron Smith in the first 5 games of 2011
QB Hits: 1
QB Hurries: 6
Sacks: 2
Penalties: 3

Travis Frederick in the first 5 games of 2013. QB Hits: 1
QB Hurries: 6
Sacks: 2
Penalties: 1

While all 3 players gave up 1 hit and 1 penalty, Smith and Frederick each gave up 2 sacks and 6 hurries in their first 5 games. Martin has given up 0 sacks and 3 hurries.

Now, to get to the current level of Tyron Smith, or even Travis Frederick, Martin still has a ways to go. Tyron Smith made his first Pro Bowl last year and is expected to be back many times before his career is over. Before the season, many experts predicted that Travis Frederick could join Smith in the Pro Bowl this year, which certainly looks like it could be a possibility. When the Cowboys drafted Martin, they did so with the hopes that he may also turn into a Pro Bowl player one day.

Well, by the way he's playing now, that "one day" may come a lot sooner than they expected. ... just as DeMarco's numbers are coming in greater volume than expected.






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