Zack Martin: O-line bears responsibility for Cowboys' run-game struggles

Discussions surrounding the Dallas Cowboys' ineffectual running game have primarily centered on Ezekiel Elliott and his banged-up knee. But Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin said the offensive line takes some of the blame for the stagnant ground game.

"I think you've got to look first and foremost at our room," Martin said, via ESPN. "We take a lot of pride in that run game and over the last few weeks it hasn't been what we want it to be, so we've just got to get back to basics."

The Cowboys have averaged 83.2 rushing yards per game since Week 7 (29th in NFL) after generating 164.3 rush yards per game in Weeks 1-6 (2nd).

Offensive line injuries and shuffling has been the cause of some of the struggles. As has Elliott's knee injury, but the RB was a full participant in Tuesday's practice.

Elliott noted that in recent weeks defensive lines have shown more movement and run blitzes. But Martin brushed that off as an every-week occurrence that shouldn't stop the O-line from doing its job.

"That's the first thing a defense will do if it's in there getting blown off the ball," Martin said. "They're going to start moving the line and you just have to be on top of it to react and kind of change some of your combination blocks on the fly."

Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore knows it'll take the entire unit to jumpstart the run game.

"Obviously something that we certainly would hope that would be better right now," Moore said. "Something we got to look at in many different ways, schematically first, personnel-wise."

Thursday night's tilt against a great Saints run D might not be the best time to try to get the running game on track.

New Orleans has allowed 91.9 rush YPG (3rd in NFL) and just a piddling 3.4 yards per carry (1st) in 2021. The Saints are the only defense to allow fewer than -130 Rushing Yards over Expected this season at -220 (Falcons are No. 2 at -130), per Next Gen Stats. There is no weakness either, as the Saints run D also allows -99 RYOE on rushes inside the tackles this season (2nd in NFL) and -121 RYOE on rushes outside the tackles (fewest in NFL). Stud linebacker Demario Davis (14, 2nd) and defensive end Cameron Jordan (13, T-3rd) both sit in the top-three in run stuffs this season.

Instead of banging their head against that particular oak door, the Cowboys should deploy a quick passing game, which has proven to be the Saints' Achilles heel this season. New Orleans ranks last in the NFL in completion percentage allowed (81.9), yards per attempt (7.9), passer rating allowed (115.9), and completion percentage over expected (+6.3) against the quick passing game.

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