No comeback is easy to pull off in the world of sports. Dak Prescott understands this as he gets ready to bounce back from a season-ending injury sustained in Week 5 of the 2020 season. The rehab has been a grind for the Dallas Cowboys quarterback. And even in training camp, Dak endured a shoulder strain that kept him off the field for a few more weeks.
And now, only days away from opening kickoff versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he will have to lead the Cowboys’ offense without its best player. On Sunday, Right Guard Zack Martin tested positive for COVID-19 and will be forced to miss the much-awaited game.
Zack Martin has been placed on the COVID list and will not play Thursday against Tampa Bay based on protocols.
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) September 5, 2021
It’s a tough break for the Dallas Cowboys, who have not seen Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, and Zack Martin share the field in a regular season game since 2019. Collins is dealing with his own issue as he battles a “stinger” injury. The right tackle practiced for the first time on Sunday as Connor Williams also made his return after being placed in the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
Losing a player like Zack Martin is one of the toughest blows the Cowboys could receive against a team as dominant in the trenches as the Bucs.
The reigning Super Bowl champs field one of the best defensive tackle duos in the league in Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh.
In 2020, Vea was fifth in the NFL in pressure rate among defensive tackles. Even though he played only five games in the regular season, when Vea came back in the playoffs he was the same bully in the trenches as always.
Meanwhile, Suh is still the same consistent veteran who remains healthy. Last season, he ranked 14th in pressure rate among defensive tackles and finished the year with 19 QB Hits.
For the Dallas Cowboys, it’ll be a big test to deal with such a talented defensive tackle duo on Thursday. Even more so given the fact that the Bucs will likely attack Dak Prescott very aggressively. Tampa Bay knows very well how to exploit opposing offensive lines like they did against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
In 2020, they finished fifth in the NFL in blitz rate at 40.2%. At the same time, they finished first in the NFL against the run measured by DVOA.
Now, it shouldn’t be the end of the world for the Dallas Cowboys if Martin doesn’t play. If La’el Collins starts on Thursday, the team would have four out of its five starting offensive linemen. And Connor McGovern was competing for a starting role at some point of the offseason, per Stephen Jones himself. More importantly, Dak Prescott will be back. And he’s supposed to be fully ready, at least physically.
Even if 100% healthy, beating the Bucs at home would’ve been a tremendous challenge. If the Cowboys pull the upset off, it could end up being the biggest statement in Week 1. Easier said than done.
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