The Dallas Cowboys X-Factor: DeMarco Murray

Published: Dec 29, 2013 11:15am EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Dec 29, 2013 @ 11:15am EST

 

The Dallas Cowboys playoff hopes now rest on the arm of back-up quarterback Kyle Orton, who hasn’t started a regular season game since week 17 in 2011 with the Kansas City Chiefs, now that Tony Romo is done for the year after back surgery. Romo is a large part of the reason why the Cowboys are even in contention for the NFC East division title heading into the final game of the season and now that he’s gone, as are his improvisation skills and strong arm, the offense will have to rely on Jason Garrett’s and Bill Callahan’s least favorite offensive option – the run game.

Cowboys fans have ripped Garrett and Callahan about the play-calling when the team is ahead on the scoreboard, especially in the fourth quarter, because they have a tendency to abandon the run in those situations. Why that decision is so odd is because instead of eating up clock while moving down the field they have a serious tendency to overly rely on the passing game and it’s led to some costly turnovers or has allowed opponents to get back into games late because they have plenty of time to do so.

Now that they don’t have much of a choice but to balance out their offensive attack in the wake of Romo’s season ending injury, how can Garrett and company utilize DeMarco Murray to help the team earn a victory over a high-octane Philadelphia Eagles offense?

The key to having the kind of success on the ground against the Eagles defense that will help put points on the board and keep the chains moving is going right after them up the middle and on the right side of the field. The Eagles are incredibly weak defending the run up the middle and are slightly weak defending the run on the right side.

Eagles nose tackle Bennie Logan is average defending the run on his best day and back-up nose tackle Damion Square is a liability against the run on his. Their inside linebackers, Fletcher Cox on the right inside and Mychal Kendricks on the left inside, are poor against the run as well which means the middle should be DeMarco Murray’s for the taking if the Cowboys send him there.

Murray is averaging 6.9 Y/PC when he rushes middle left on the season and is averaging 6.0 Y/PC when rushing middle right. Another key aspect to Murray’s success is that he’s been very elusive and hard to bring down. He’s rated the fifth most elusive running back in football, according to Pro Football Focus, with a 56.7 elusive rating and has caused defenders to miss a tackle a whopping 50 times when he’s running (36) or receiving (14) the ball.

The Cowboys have themselves a player that can dominate on the ground and also produce some big catch and run yards receiving if they pass it to him in the flat, or even send him out across the middle. Of course the issue here is that when Romo was in the game the coaching staff would, all too often, either abandon the run in the second half – even when they were leading – or they simply wouldn’t use Murray enough when matchups favored them.

If the Cowboys hope to beat the Eagles tonight and take the NFC East division title, as well as do anything meaningful in the playoffs, they will have to make a more concerted effort to run the ball more than 30% of the time or so. Their playoff hopes rest on their head coach and offensive coordinator not outsmarting themselves throughout the game and pretending they still have Tony Romo under center. 


 

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Lance Rinker
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