The Cowboys need to be careful not to overrate DeMarco Murray

Heading into Week 7 last season, with Felix Jones nursing yet another one of his long list of ailments, DeMarco Murray got his first NFL start at RB against the Rams.  He went off for 253 yards on 25 carries, and continued to put up impressive numbers over the next 3 weeks:

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

Over those first four games, Murray averaged a staggering 8.01 yards per carry.  The quick twitch argument might be to say that his YPC was skewed somewhat by the huge game he produced against the anemic Rams, and that’s true to an extent, but Murray’s lowest YPC in those first four games was an extremely lofty 6.32.

Those numbers were extremely impressive, but there was no way Murray was going to sustain that level of production.  Opposing teams will begin to give you more attention, and those ridiculous numbers will come down Earth.  His numbers over the next four (also his last four) starts:

Opponent Rushes Yards YPC TD
Redskins 25 73 2.9 0
Dolphins 22 87 4 0
Cardinals 12 38 3.2 0
Giants 5 25 5 0
Totals 64 223 3.48 0

Rather predictably, Murray did indeed come back to Earth, but that 3.48 YPC would be of particular concern to me.  Running backs can go on a tear for a few games.  It’s really nothing out of the ordinary.  Look at Jerome Harrison with the 2009 Browns.  In the last 3 games of that season, Harrison went off for 561 yards and 3 TD’s.  He’s now a backup.  Also in 2009, the Jets’ Shonn Greene had a 4 game stretch (including 2 playoff games) in which he went off for 420 yards on 73 carries (5.75 YPC).  He’s had just three 100 yards games in the 2 years since.  In 2010, Ryan Torain had a 4 game stretch in which he ran for 407 yards on 74 carries (5.5 YPC).  He’s not even on an NFL roster right now.

While I think DeMarco Murray is a better player than all of the above runners, it is important not to put too much stock in his impressive stretch last season.  That brings us back to Felix Jones.  I’ve seen it suggested that Felix Jones could be traded, or even CUT.  I think we all now know that Felix Jones isn’t a feature back in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be useful. At the very least, 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, and if you need him to fill in as a starter on occasion, he’s also experienced in that role as well.

While it is perfectly acceptable to be excited and optimistic about DeMarco Murray, trading or cutting Jones would show far too much trust in Murray, a player that hasn’t proven anything over a sustained period of time.

34 Comments

  1. Thanks for every other informative blog. Where else may I get that kind of info written in such a perfect manner? I’ve a venture that I am just now operating on, and I have been at the glance out for such info.

  2. David Myers says:

    Not to throw too much water on what is a well written article, but the stat for judging running backs really should be run success, not yards per carry. All the yards per stats aren’t consistency stats, they’re explosiveness stats. They don’t weight the one yard on 3rd and one adequately.

    Brian Burke has done some good work on this (though, as cap guru AdamJT13 points out, BB is ignoring prior art).

    D-

  3. greg says:

    To clarify, I completely agree these are not good numbers for an NFL starter. I just had the feeling like some commentors thought 3.5 was worth nothing, and I’m just saying I think it’s serviceable.

  4. […] was Cowboys weekend here at Blogging the bEast.  If you missed my writeups on not overrating DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys’ depth chart, take a gander.  Giants depth chart is up next.  Should have […]

  5. This web page fails to show up the right way on my personal Nokia Smart Phone – you will probably wanna try to remedy the problem.

    1. slandog says:

      Or you can get on an actual computer and off your smartphone……that will remedy YOUR problem.

      1. Timbo says:

        ZING!

      2. You just argued with spam.

  6. what I think you’re excellent article is missing JK is what games Fiametta was missing from the line up with “mysterious ailment”. Those games Dallas was reduced to playing a pass heavy offense and his absence was a big reason for the drop in production from our running game. I believe that Vickers who is even more of a classic fullback than Fiametta is will improve our running attack even more. He’s blocked successfully for Arian Foster the past couple of years and Peyton Hillis before that. Your take?

  7. greg says:

    p.s. jimmy thanks for the great site. I learned so much from you here and over at BGN!

    1. Thanks. Much appreciated.

  8. […] It’ll be interesting to see what DeMarco Murray is in his sophomore season in the NFL. While I think start, and I think he’ll play well, I don’t think we should be putting his name in permanent marker as the 2012 starter, even if the Cowboys have publicly acknowledged that Felix Jones is a “complimentary back.”  The Cowboys need to be careful not to overrate Murray. […]

  9. Jimmer says:

    I think it is much more likely that we see a regression from someone like Shady McCoy this year. Super small scat back types like McCoy tend to wear down from overuse over the long run. Not too mention he will be playing behind a vastly inferior line this year without Peters. Shame Philly wasted what will probably be his best season on an average 8-8 team.

    1. I wouldn’t call McCoy a scat back. He led the NFL in broken tackles last year.

      1. Jimmer says:

        Broken tackles as rated by Football Outsiders really has nothing to do with size. Jacquizz Rodgers who weighs about 120 soaking wet had a 24% broken tackle rate. Mike Wallace was also ranked very high according to FO. So broken tackles has nothing to do with size.

    2. Mike says:

      I think the best, as a Cowboys fan, that I can hope for from McCoy, is that his desire for a contract becomes a distraction and that it effects his performance.

      Because, I’m pretty sure that’s the only way we see a regression from that man.

  10. greg says:

    Is 3.5 all that bad? Last year most of the top rbs were around 4.5. Chris Johnson finished at 4.0. I’m not saying 3.5 is great but I don’t think that would necessarily make him a backup.

    1. Imp says:

      http://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2011/rushing.htm

      Check ranking at yard per attempt. You have 50 players before you hit 3.5 and 37 before hitting 4.0. 3.5 is not good, at all. I’m perfectly willing to wall 4.0 mediocre at best.

      Also, the Chris Johnson thing is backward; it isn’t 4.0 is good because Johnson had that sats, it’s closer to Johnson being overrated or not having as good of a year as he should have because of 4.0. It’s like saying 20 interceptions in a year is good because Brett Favre did it.

      1. greg says:

        Looking at the list theres a pretty lot of top names 3.8 and under (Hillis, Jacobs, etc). As for Chris Johnson teams were scheming against him too.

        I’m not saying the numbers are good, but playable?

        1. slandog says:

          How can you put Hillis and Jocobs as “top names”? Hillis had one good season and Jacobs had what maybe 2 good seasons? They are not good RB in the NFL.

          1. greg says:

            Hillis was on the cover of Madden 2012. Jacobs had a bad year last season and in 2009. He and Bradshaw had similar stats for the super bowl champs. Big names? Yes. Not great stats, but scrap heap? No.

    2. 3.5 is definitely bad, but we’re only talking about 4 games there. In the same way people shouldn’t judge him solely on the 4 great games, he shouldn’t be judged on the 4 meh ones either. I’m not saying he’s a backup. He should get the opportunity to start next season. He could be great. He could also turn out to be average. The message here is to be careful with small sample sizes.

    3. greg says:

      I agree. I kind of botched my question. I remember Lynch had a couple seasons at 3.5, but he was still a primary back. I know 3.5 is below average but I thought it might (barely) be a passable starter

    4. greg says:

      In my book I’d say 5.0 is a superstar, 4.5 a star, 4.0 while schemed against is really good, 3.5 a passable starter.

      You’d rather have a star, but if not he might still be playable, in my opinion.

  11. bula says:

    felix jones isn’t a starter. I heard he was 10 times better than Brian westbrook

  12. Mastermind says:

    Ur such a hater of anything cowboy related. I’m from texas and I love texas teams, I spent several years on the east coast while in the army and never tired of defending the team I grew up loving. With that being said, suck my Dirk.

    1. Adam S says:

      I’m a Cowboys fan too and I thought this was a pretty positive article about them. All he’s saying is that the Cowboys shouldn’t trade Felix because Murray isn’t yet a sure thing and he’s right.

    2. Adam S says:

      If a cowboys fan wrote this and not a biased Eagle fan like Jimmy 😉 wrote this you’d never think is was a negative article.

    3. Timbo says:

      I think this article was excellent. My father played for the Cowboys so I have been a die hard fan from day 1. I have been very excited about the developement of Murray over the off season but I completely over looked the statistics from his last 4 games. At first look I was sweating bullets but then I decided to think about those 4 games with a little more detail. The entire team played poorly against Washington barely escaping with a narrow 27-24 win. I was at the game against the Dolphins and I remember the play calling was ridiculous. The Cowboys won with a last second field goal over the suddenly powerful Dolphins. Very little offense was produced besides the 2 Nate Robinson touchdowns. On a drive when Murray was finally hitting his stride Romo threw a critical interception. Then the rest of the game was basically a half assed attempt to “catch up”. Against the Cardinals the Cowboys once again became a pass heavy team. Only 12 rushes in the entire game? Come on, we all know the Cowboys would have faired much better with a more balanced approach. That leaves us with the Giants game when he was injured. Is it odd that his highest YPC was against the dominant Giants D-line anchored by Pierre Paul? Although he only had 5 carries so the sample size is far to small to get an accurate estimate of how the game would have ended for Murray. All I’m trying to say is that from the outside it looks like those last 4 games could spell trouble, but being the die hard fan I am I tried to find any evidence that would dispell a Jerome Harrison 2 from occuring. It is a large possibility that Jimmy is right so for now I shall hold my breathe.

      1. Who was your father?

        1. Timbo says:

          Bill Baker. No one even remotely good or famous. He was just a kicker during pre season. Then he shanked a kick off and it was goodbye. haha but that does not change the fact that I’m a die hard fan! Jimmy, your articles are excellent!!

          1. Timbo says:

            I wouldn’t have praised you so much if I would have realized sooner that every single person that visits this web site tells you how awesome you are. ha, but i know you must be truly devastated that my last name isn’t Aikman or Staubach.

    4. slandog says:

      Sounds like Mastermind is whining because someone is picking on his Cowboys. Did you read the article you moron, he’s not saying anything negative about the Cowboys, so he’s not hating on them at all. He’s making a statement and putting numbers to back it up.

      Get off your horse and learn how to comprehend the English language.

  13. rich says:

    I think the official response to the rumors of trading/cutting jones was, “Hell no!”.

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