DeMarco Murray Replaceable – But Not Seamlessly Replaceable


It seems everyone is taking polarized stances on DeMarco Murray these days. Some believe DeMarco ‘s success is purely a byproduct of his offensive line’s success. Others think DeMarco is to be given the bulk of the credit and worthy of retiring a Dallas Cowboy. Both stances certainly have their valid arguments the real answer is probably in the middle.

Can’t DeMarco be both? He’s having a phenomenal year, worthy of recognition. He’s playing like one of the best, if not THE best, RB in the NFL. The offensive line is also blocking like one of the best, if not THE best in the NFL. They are not mutually exclusive statements that require only “one” or “the other” to be deemed valid.

Dec 4, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) is tackled by Chicago Bears inside linebacker Jon Bostic (57) during the second half at Soldier Field. Dallas won 41-28. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The debate has only intensified amid DeMarco Murray’s recent injury (and ensuing surgery) that places his availably, highly into question for Sunday’s matchup against the Colts. Can anyone really run behind this offensive line or is DeMarco Murray special?

Murray’s running style is a perfect match for Bill Callahan’s zone blocking scheme.

Murray is a patient runner, willing to let the seams develop before slashing through the hole. He has a quick one step cut and second level moves to avoid tackles downfield.

To just look at a couple big runs by Joseph Randle in recent weeks, and decide he’s just as good if not better than DeMarco, is a little irresponsible. Back-up and change-of-pace backs are notorious for finding success in spot duty around the league. They are supposed to have higher than normal YPC. That doesn’t automatically equate the same success on a fulltime basis.

Much like Murray, Joseph Randle has a quick slash step through the hole. Hesitant in the past, Randle has been operating with more confidence the latter half of this season. He doesn’t hit a hole with the same conviction as Murray, but it’s much better than before and certainly effective.

"“I just think (Randle’s) gotten more and more confident,” said Jason Garrett. “He got a chance to (start) last year when DeMarco was out up there in Philadelphia. I thought he did a solid job in that game. I think, the more he’s been in this scheme, the more he’s been playing at this level, the more confident he’s gotten.”"

The biggest fall-off in skill between Murray and Randle is strength. Despite running behind (What I believe is) the best run-blocking O-line in football, DeMarco sees his share of hits in the backfield. DeMarco has a special ability to toss backfield tacklers away and gain yards after what initially appears to be an unwinnable situation.

Dec 14, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle (21) runs with the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles 38-27. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joseph Randle simply doesn’t have the strength to do this (few do). With confidence always being the biggest question in Randle’s game, it’s a concern that a backfield hit could cause hesitancy in Randle’s game, deeming him ineffective.

Lance Dunbar is a true complementary back that has skills which translate all over the field. He can pass-block adequately, and can line up in the slot as a receiver.

He can hit a hole or bounce it outside. He’s not extremely strong in any one area except versatility and “little-man shiftiness”.

"“He’s (Dunbar) just a really good player and you’re always looking for opportunities to get him out there,” Garrett said. “Hand him the ball, throw him the ball, he always cashes in when we give him chances to do it, (Sunday) I though was a really good example, they weren’t really splash plays but hey were good runs, they were hard runs, they were tough runs, you’re always trying to give a guy like that a chance and he typically cashes in.”"

Dunbar can’t straight-up “replace” Murray, but he can increase snaps and offer something different. Randle can’t replace Murray but he can ease the pain and, as history has shown us, break off some big gains in the process.

Yesterday we looked at the backup situation behind DeMarco and who will likely take up the workload in his absence. Check out: DeMarco Murray Injury Update and Backup RB Pecking Order

Can these two guys replace Murray and find success in the process? Of course! Even if Doug Free is unable to go, the offensive line is strong enough to deliver success to either/both of these guys. But don’t expect it to be a perfect replacement. Murray is a fantastic RB that offers a ton to the Dallas Cowboys. He may not be worth a massive extension next season but let’s give credit where credit is due.

DeMarco Murray is a great RB, behind a great offensive line. Dunbar and Randle can get this done but don’t expect it to be completely seamless.