The emergence of DeMarco Murray is reminiscent of the rise of Miles Austin

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:

Opponent Rec Yards TD
Chiefs 10 250 2
Falcons 6 171 2
Seahawks 5 61 1
Eagles 1 49 1
Packers 4 20 0
Redskins 4 47 0
Raiders 7 145 1
Giants 10 104 1
Chargers 6 71 1
Saints 7 139 1
Redskins 9 92 0
Eagles 7 90 0
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:

Opponent Rushes Yards YPC TD
Rams 25 253 10.12 1
Eagles 8 74 9.25 0
Seahawks 22 139 6.32 0
Bills 20 135 6.75 1
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.)

Player Team Carries Yards YPC TD
DeMarco Murray Cowboys 75 601 8.01 2
Steven Jackson Rams 99 487 4.92 3
LeSean McCoy Eagles 88 463 5.26 5
Fred Jackson Bills 73 437 5.99 1
Arian Foster Texans 94 435 4.63 5
Matt Forte Bears 84 429 5.11 2
Michael Turner Falcons 95 428 4.51 3
Frank Gore 49ers 71 382 5.38 2
Willis McGahee Broncos 58 381 6.57 2
Michael Bush Raiders 76 380 5 1

(Cont after the jump)…

Player Team Carries Yards YPC TD
Maurice Jones-Drew Jaguars 95 378 3.98 2
Marshawn Lynch Seahawks 83 366 4.41 4
Adrian Peterson Vikings 70 348 4.97 4
Shonn Greene Jets 73 323 4.42 0
Reggie Bush Dolphins 52 284 5.46 3
LeGarrette Blount Buccaneers 58 267 4.6 1
Ryan Mathews Chargers 56 255 4.55 0
James Starks Packers 52 253 4.87 0
Ahmad Bradshaw Giants 68 251 3.69 4
Jackie Battle Chiefs 58 247 4.26 1
Chris Johnson Titans 65 246 3.78 1
Cedric Benson Bengals 75 245 3.27 1
Beanie Wells Cardinals 67 207 3.09 1
Donald Brown Colts 49 203 4.14 1
Rashard Mendenhall Steelers 55 198 3.6 3
Pierre Thomas Saints 31 175 5.65 2
Maurice Morris Lions 37 172 4.65 1
Chris Ogbonnaya Browns 46 170 3.7 0
Ray Rice Ravens 49 161 3.29 4
DeAngelo Williams Panthers 37 140 3.78 0
BenJarvis Green-Ellis Patriots 39 127 3.26 0
Roy Helu Redskins 17 81 4.76 0

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.


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  81. Josh Smith says:

    Im a Eagles fan but I will say that DeMarco is better than any other back in the league right now. He did the same things in college with more receptions and I was pissed that we didnt get him. He’s a baller….he is physical, he’s fast…he has great vision , he doesnt fumble, he’s powerful

  82. Cowboy Chris says:

    Jimmy- Love the objective nature of your analysis, friend. You are DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones rolled into one big ole analyst package- you can get partisan when you need to on Trash Talk, but then as a change of pace you can get all soft and cuddly for those Dallas Cowboys for Blogging the Beast. Well done, sir!

  83. Barry says:

    Better than McCoy?

    1. DerfDiggy says:

      Nope…not yet at least.

    2. Don’t get greedy.

  84. Sb2bowl says:

    Well, he can’t slobber all over the Eagles. We suck this year. I was at the game Sunday, and it felt like a total let down; worse then when we lost to Carolina at home in the Championship game. The crowd, and team both felt defeated.

    The Giants aren’t scary, but they are consistent. If they continue on that pace, they have a decent shot to win the East. However, and I hate to say this, Dallas has the best chance. Look at their schedule, and it sickens me to no end.

  85. GEEEEE MEN says:

    Slobbering all over the Cowboys and Giants lately eh Jimmy?

    1. Well…. They’re 1 and 2 in the division right now.

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