It’s vital that Linehan and Romo find harmony and productivity together—and quickly. But the next most important name to consider is DeMarco Murray, the often injured fourth-year veteran running back out of University of Oklahoma.
Don’t mistake what I’m about to say as what it may seem, but Murray has to be the Smith of the Dallas offense. If healthy, Murray can churn out the kind of yardage necessary to move the chains and grind out the clock. He’s also capable of scoring from just about anywhere on the field. He can be just as lethal receiving as he is rushing.
Linehan needs to be targeting around 20 carries for Murray in each game, a total he’s not likely to hit. Still, if Linehan can come as close as possible to that number while possibly reaching 25 total carries for all of his backs, we may just discover that Romo’s back isn’t in too bad of shape after all.
If Murray has his way, it’ll go the way I’m suggesting here.
Following the recent Cowboys U football camp at Valley Ranch, Dallas Morning News columnist Jon Machota captured the following as Murray addressed a portion of the 160 local high school players in attendance:
I want the ball every time, no matter what. But at the same time, I know it’s a team game and I can’t run the ball well if Tyron [Smith] and Doug [Free] are not doing their job and if Tony’s not playing well and making the throws, or Witten isn’t setting the edge like he’s supposed to. I take it upon myself to work hard every day. The reason I do that is for these guys right here.
When Murray is productive in this offense, Dallas generally wins, just as it did when Smith would either carry the ball 20 times or more or clear 100 yards rushing—often Smith did both and the Cowboys of the 90s were virtually unstoppable.
Linehan can have the same kind of success with the offensive tools and weapons he has at his disposal upon arriving in Dallas, but to follow the same kind of “pass-happy”pattern he did at Detroit could have the entire Cowboys coaching staff looking for new jobs next year.
Turner was smart enough to realize that opposing defenses need to have as little clue as possible about the next play. The only possible exception might be when the opposing defense knows you’re going to run the ball late in the game because you’ve got the lead and they can’t stop it.
Linehan enters a culture that is almost the complete opposite. Head coach and former offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has tried as much as possible to eliminate rushing from the Cowboys offensive attack, preferring, in some cases, to run the ball just a few times in a given half.
Linehan, indeed, has changes to make, not the least of which is to bring some unpredictability and maybe some balance to an offense which has the talent to contend in the playoffs.