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:
|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:
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.