Wait and See with Dallas Cowboy DeMarco Murray


Dec 15, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs with the ball against Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams (38) in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarco Murray, Dallas’ 2011 3rd round draft selection, enters the 2014 season playing under the last year of his rookie contract. Much debate this week has centered on whether or not the Cowboys should resign Murray to an extension. Coming off a career year in which Murray collected 1,121 yards on the ground and 350 yards in the air, Murray’s value has never been higher.

Most criticism of Murray stem from his injury history and general inability to play an entire 16 game season. Murray’s rookie season he missed 3 games, followed by 6 games in 2012, and 2 games last season. But when comparing careers to other 2013 top-10 RB’s, Murray doesn’t usually miss an atypical amount. As you can see here in, Is DeMarco Murray Injury Prone, missing games due to injury is common for NFL RBs. It’s rarer NOT to miss a game than to complete an entire 16 game season injury-free.

Other distracters have said DeMarco’s lone 1000 yard season in 3 years hardly justifies a shiny new contract. But apologists point to the poor play calling in Jason Garrett’s pass-heavy offense as the culprit.

Whichever side of the fence you are on, it’s hard to ignore the 5.2 yards per carry average Murray boasted in 2013. With production like that, it’s completely mindboggling why the Cowboys ran the ball so little last season.

Jul 21, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarco Murray’s running style fits this offence extraordinarily well. Over the past few seasons Bill Callahan has been working to install a zone blocking scheme (ZBS). The ZBS is a departure from the traditional man blocking schemes Dallas has ran in the past so successfully. With a blocking scheme that focuses on speed and athleticism from its offensive linemen, a fast one-cut running back is almost a requirement. It was clear last season once the offensive line started creating holes and cut-back lanes, DeMarco was a perfect match for this offense.

The lack of success in short yardage situations really can’t be blamed on Murray either. When he’s consistently met 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage it’s a O-line problem – not a RB problem. As long as the Cowboys keep rolling with underperforming (and just weak) offensive guards, they will continue to have problems in short yardage situations. But that’s probably a topic for another day!

Playing on the last year of his rookie contract DeMarco is set to earn a little over $1.5M in 2014. The Cowboys are traditionally pro-active in their contract extensions and prefer to sign extensions before the final year of a player’s contract. In fact, they are expected to extend both Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant at some point before the regular season stats. Should DeMarco Murray also be pro-actively extended?

It really comes down to a risk/reward situation. If the Cowboys extend Murray before the season and he explodes for 1500 yards, then the Cowboys probably made out well, agreeing to terms before his stock rocketed. But if the Cowboys extend him and he has another 2012 season where he misses 6 games and only collects 600 yards, the Cowboys probably get burned on the deal since they agreed to terms when Murray’s stock was at its highest.

After discussing this issue at great length (Sport DFW.com, Fan Forums, and on local radio) it’s probably wisest to let him play under his current deal in 2014. It’s unknown at this point if Murray is the kind of RB who misses 2-3 games (2011 & 2013) which is perfectly acceptable, or the RB who misses 6 games (2012) which is unacceptable. There is a big difference between the two and Cowboys certainly don’t want to financially commit to a player who’s often injured (Miles Austin for instance). In addition, contract year motivation is a powerful force. It’s a little nerve-racking not knowing what’s to come but the results are usually favorable. Besides, sometimes the best deal is the one you don’t make.

Beyond 2014, it’s tough to say. Gathering more information is usually a good thing and the Cowboys would be wise to gather more on DeMarco. It would be nice to see the Cowboys call more running plays and see if Murray can handle the extra load. It’s worth knowing if 15 carries a game is his physical max or if he can effectively push that number up to 20.

The Cowboys are under no pressure to get this deal done now so waiting is most likely the safest move. Let him establish his market price and go from there in 2015. Until then, let’s see what we have run him like crazy in 2014.

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