By Shawn Lealos
One of the big questions for Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is why the team doesn’t use DeMarco Murray as much as they could to help run the clock and control their games. While Garrett often claims that Dallas operates their game plan based on their opposition, he also made a comment this week about Murray’s style of play. In his press conference, Garrett said that Murray needs to finish his runs better.
That answer was in response to a question about Murray running out of bounds instead of fighting for some extra yards.
While that is an interesting statement, the fact remains that Murray averaged 6.1 yards per carry against the New York Giants, but only received 14 carries in the game. He added three receptions for 40 yards in the contest as well.
Earlier in the season, Murray actually ranked in the Top 5 for NFL running backs, but an injury took him out a couple of games, and there have been some thoughts that Murray is now limiting his hits to stay healthy. He now ranks 13th in the NFL for rushing yards with 634 yards but is the top ranked running back in the league at 5.1 yards per rush, tied with the Oakland Raiders Rashad Jennings.
To put it simply, the Dallas Cowboys running back averages more yards per carry than any other NFL running back this season except for one, and Dallas barely gives him a dozen touches a game. If the reason is that he doesn’t “finish his runs” well enough, then no other running back in the NFL does either.
In the three games since returning from his injury, Murray has only carried the ball 34 times but has 206 yards, for an impressive 6.05 yards per carry. He also has 10 receptions for 65 yards, giving him an average of 90 yards a game. It is exciting to imagine how many yards he could contribute if the Cowboys actually remained dedicated to a 50-50 run/pass ratio.
Murray himself never complains about his lack of touches, but he did seem a bit confused at the comments about finishing his runs better. He said he looked over the tape and only saw one instance where that question would come up, and said that a running back has to remain selective in cases like that where you are trapped and have nowhere to go.
However, when it comes to past injuries, he said he has not changed his style at all.
DeMarco Murray has been labeled injury prone over his career, but despite three bad injuries in college, he left the Oklahoma Sooners as the school’s leader in points scored, touchdowns and all-purpose yards. Despite injuries, he got the job done and never changed his style.
In his rookie season at Dallas, he led all rookies with 5.5 yards per carry and finished with 897 rushing yards. His 2012 season was hampered due to a sprained foot, but he still finished the year with 663 rushing yards in 10 games and a 4.1 yard per carry average. This season, he was out for a couple of games with an injury as well, but is still playing at a high level.
This week, Dallas plays the Oakland Raiders. Their starting running back, Rashad Jennings, has the same yards per carry as Murray, but has carried the ball 24 more times over the last three games than Murray has. He averaged about a half yard a carry less than Murray through that time as well.
Dallas is fighting for a playoff spot and if they win the NFC East, they will clinch it. However, if the Cowboys want to make it farther into the playoffs, they have to learn how to control the clock. They won’t do that by only running the ball 12 times a game. DeMarco Murray has proven he can move the chains, now if might be the time that Dallas trusts him to do so.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.