Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by ESPN writer Michael Pina. We’d like to thank Michael for choosing The Landry Hat as a forum to talk about the Dallas Cowboys. Enjoy his article. – SM
How would you describe DeMarco Murray to someone who’s never seen him wear a helmet? Great? Would-be-great if not for an inability to stay on the field? Overrated? Underrated? A disappointment? An overachieving cog running behind a perpetually flawed offensive line in a scheme that prioritizes throwing the ball no matter what?
Murray is all of those things and none of them. With under two season’s worth of action under his belt, all we really know about Dallas’ starting halfback is that he’s…Dallas’ starting halfback. There isn’t enough evidence, yet, to assign permanent labels.
That being said, here are some indisputable facts about Murray’s career to date:
His career high for touchdowns in a season is four. He’s never rushed for more than 900 yards in a season. He’s caught one touchdown pass. He’s rushed for over 100 yards five times in 28 games (Dallas won all five). He’s rushed for under 50 yards 13 times (Dallas went 3-10.) He has one career rushing touchdown on the road.
A few more facts:
Murray is 25 years old. He’s averaged 4.8 yards per carry (seventh highest among active players) on only 14.6 rushes per game. He’s yet to suit up for more than 13 games in a season. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry during his rookie season, which was second most in the league. Only three players have rushed for more than his 399 yards this season. Only six players have gained more yards from scrimmage.
As is the case with many players who consistently harm themselves playing the world’s most violent team sport, Murray has yet to find a groove during the early part of his career. This year he’s been able to stay healthy, and the results haven’t been that bad.
The Week 3 monster truck rally Murray conducted against the St. Louis Rams may inflate his numbers (175 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries), but there are solid excuses for the two games where his production fell flat.
Week 5’s shootout against the Denver Broncos was neither the time nor the place for a running back to have any sort of responsibility except for that related to pass blocking. In a perfect world, Murray could have gained more than 43 yards on his 12 carries against a relatively vanilla Denver defense, but he did catch the first touchdown of his career. So that’s something.
By far his worst outing of the year came in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that may boast the league’s most stout front seven. Twelve carries for 25 yards. Five catches for 49 yards. It’s bad, but not David Wilson bad.
Murray runs with channeled ferocity. For one defender he’s incredibly difficult to bring down, rekindling Marion Barber memories for the Cowboys fan who wants to see their team grind out wins instead of hurtling the ball into an unknown future.
According to FootballOutsiders.com’s DYAR metric (which measures a player’s total value), Murray ranks as the seventh best running back in the league. According to the site’s DVOA metric (which measures a player’s value per play), Murray ranks ninth, ahead of Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, and Adrian Peterson.
Murray’s career may be too small to pluck any worthy evidence detailing how good, or not good, he is. But from what we’ve seen this year, he more than deserves the playing time and opportunity to change his perception. Whatever that may be.
Michael Pina is a writer for ESPN’s TrueHoop Network. He also writes for Scorebig. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelVPina.