Back in 2009, with Roy Williams injured, Miles Austin was inserted into the starting lineup. In his breakout game, he went off for 250 receiving yards, including a game-ending 59 yard tackle-breaking catch and run in overtime. He would never relinquish his role as the starter again. Over the rest of the season, Austin continued to put up big numbers, and in the 12 games he started that season, he averaged over 100 receiving yards per game:
|Total (12 games)||76||1239||10|
In many ways, the beginning of DeMarco Murray’s tenure as the Cowboys’ starting running back has gone very similarly. In his first ever start, Murray racked up 253 rushing yards (besting Austin’s receiving yardage total by 3), and has followed that up with 3 more impressive performances:
|Total (4 games)||75||601||8.01||2|
In case you didn’t notice, Murray is averaging a staggering 8.01 yards per carry since he became the starter. The quick twitch argument might be to say that his YPC is skewed somewhat by the huge game he produced against the anemic Rams, and that’s true to an extent, but Murray’s lowest YPC so far in games he has started is still an extremely lofty 6.32.
Over his first 4 starts, Murray has rushed for 601 yards, or basically 150 per game, on just 75 carries. If you compare that to the current feature backs around the league, the next closest rusher over their latest 4-game spans is Steven Jackson, with 487 yards… on 99 carries. Here’s the list of all the lead backs around the league. (NOTE – There was some gray area in choosing one back for each team. I’ll spare you the details of how I selected them, but for each player below, I used their last 4 games. But let’s not get bogged down by that – The point here is… DeMarco is really good.)
(Cont after the jump)…
Murray isn’t going to sustain that production. Teams will begin to game plan for him, and those ridiculous numbers will come down Earth. That’s not a bad thing for the Cowboys. The Cowboys’ run game hasn’t been feared in quite some time. At the very least, teams will now have to respect it. If Murray can continue to play at a high level, it’ll only open up more opportunities for Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, the aforementioned Miles Austin, and pleasant surprise Laurent Robinson.
Felix Jones is expected to return to the lineup when the Cowboys face the Redskins this week. Murray is going to start and get the majority of the carries. Or at least… the Cowboys would be certifiably crazy not to start Murray and give him the majority of the carries. That doesn’t mean Jones can’t be useful. I think we now know that Felix Jones isn’t a feature back in the NFL. But he can be a stellar change of pace guy if he can play the way he did in that role his first two years in the league. The Cowboys’ offense suddenly looks really good.