Over the past six seasons, the Cowboys have been considered a prolific offense, especially with high-powered weapons like Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Laurent Robinson, Jason Witten and Tony Romo headlining the show. Well, not much has changed in 2012; you still have all the same names, still as dangerous as before, if not more.
Yet this season offers something different.
This year, for the first time since the retirement of Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys have a legitimate workhorse back. DeMarco Murray isn’t just a flashy guy who produces big plays. He’s much more; he’s a symbol of balance in an aerial offense.
We as Cowboys fans have suffered through over-hyped backs like Troy Hambrick, Julius Jones (I still remember drafting him while watching Stephen Jackson continue his free fall), Marion Barber and, yes, even Felix Jones. All of them projected as solid backs, but all of them failed in the shadow of Emmitt and the star.
Alas, now we have DeMarco Murray as our lead back, but this one is different.
Murray isn’t an over-hyped running back who had an inflated college draft pedigree. Instead he was a player who produced well at Oklahoma and still was viewed as a mediocre pro. Scouting reports like that tend to put a chip on a guy's shoulder.
With an injured Felix Jones sidelined in Week 7 against the St. Louis Rams, Murray burst onto the scene with a Dallas Cowboys franchise record 253 rushing yards on 25 carries. Murray never looked back, finishing the season three games early due to an ankle injury, compiling 897 yards and two touchdowns in just 13 games.
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Murray is different from the backs that have come and gone in Dallas. He has an excellent combination of speed and power.
His best attribute though? His vision.
Murray is able to see plays develop as if he’s a 10-year veteran. He has patience to allow the hole to open up, and when you’re able to pair vision and patience, you have a high average-per-carry back who can be a game-breaker.
But Murray is more than a good running back. His abilities make the offense better.
The Cowboys have gone from an explosive pass-first offense to a efficient game-pacing one with Murray in the lineup. In games where Murray was the starter, Romo threw 18 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions while compiling a passer rating above 95 in every game but one.
Murray makes Romo and the rest of the team much better.
All of the sudden, play action is more effective; defenses find it harder to dictate what constitutes a passing down, and blitzes lose their effectiveness. The team is sharper, more confident and, more importantly, much more explosive.
I’m a firm believer that when in battle, unpredictability is your best weapon. What the offense has with the emergence of Murray is an unpredictable game plan. It’s easy to catch an enemy off balance when they are unsure of where an attack will come from.
Aren’t all your opponents enemies anyway? Football is a game of chess, a form of war that takes place on a grassy gridiron.
There have been many battles lost, but the advantage for the war goes to the Cowboys, DeMarco Murray and their evolved and dangerous offense.