Dallas Cowboys’ Running Game May be Better Without DeMarco Murray


No one in Dallas is going to produce the yardage DeMarco Murray produced for the Cowboys last season, but the Cowboys may still be better off WITHOUT the NFL’s leading rusher…

Before we explain how the Cowboys may be better served without DeMarco Murray, it’s important to clear some things up first:

Let’s reiterate: No one on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster is going to have a season like DeMarco Murray had in 2014. Even if Murray had returned to Dallas this season, that kind of production isn’t going to happen again. No running back has ever been able to duplicate that level of success, with that large of a workload.

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1,845 rushing yards is an amazing feat made possible by a multiple parts working together. In order for the Cowboys to accomplish that last season, different pieces had to fall into place: It required a very skilled ball carrier, a commitment to the running game by the coaching staff, a commitment to give DeMarco that large of a workload, and an excellent offensive line.

To shortchange any of those components is absurd and insulting.

For all of the success DeMarco Murray had last season, his performance was really a tale of two parts, because the DeMarco that started the 2014 season, was nothing like the DeMarco that ended the 2014 season.

Part 1: In DeMarco Murray’s first 13 games, he tallied 1606 rushing yards. He gained those yards on 319 carries giving him an average of 5.03 ypc. Extremely impressive numbers that only saw two games where he failed to gain at least 100 yards (79 yards in week 9 and 73 yards in week 12).

Part 2: The final 5 games (December and January including playoffs), where the Cowboys still needed to secure their playoff spot, and then start their playoff run, saw a much different Murray. In those 5 games, DeMarco only collected 437 yards. With 117 carries, that’s only good for 3.73 ypc. That’s quite a falloff from his amazing numbers the first 13 games of the season where he boasted almost 1 ½ yards more each carry.

Obviously the normal “wear and tear”, and the broken hand, played a large role in this decline in production, but for a featured back receiving a record amount of touches – that’s to be expected. And that’s kinda the point. There was no way Murray was going to make it out of the 2014 season unscathed considering the sheer volume of touches.

Anyone watching the games could see that Murray was slowing down as the season progressed. Analysts pointed it out, announcers mentioned it regularily, and sports shows/columns discussed it. It was pretty noticeable and frankly – expected.

That’s the problem with having a lone workhorse running back. He’s destined to breakdown eventually. And that is the #1 reason the Dallas Cowboys can actually be better in 2015 without DeMarco Murray.

Don’t get me wrong — Joe Randle, Ryan Williams, Lance Dunbar, and Darren McFadden can’t hold a candle to the 2014 version of DeMarco Murray. But they don’t have to. They need to divide carries so they don’t break down the last quarter of the season. They need to be operating at peak performance down the stretch when it matters the most.

They need to stay strong down the stretch. The same stretch that Murray faded last year.

Whoever the Cowboys roll with in 2015, they won’t come close to approaching the 436 carries Murray had. They’re also not going to get the 1,845 yards DeMarco Murray racked up either.

But remember, neither was Murray had he been re-signed.

Giving a runner 392 carries before the playoffs is a recipe for disaster. Even if the Cowboys find a featured back out of their current stable of runners, he won’t dominate the workload in the way DeMarco did last season, and the Cowboys will be better off for it.

Running back by committee (RBBC) may not post the gaudy numbers a workhorse back like Murray does, but it’s a better plan for a playoff run. RBBC (or my preferred 70/30) split doesn’t guarantee success. It’s feasible that even with RBBC, the Cowboys could finish with less combined rushing yards than Murray’s 1845.

That doesn’t mean they can’t still be better situated heading into the playoffs.

Running games matter most in the winter months, and the Cowboys have the potential to have a great playoff running-game if they can divide carries and keep their runners fresh along the way. Something they couldn’t do with DeMarco last season.

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