Could DeMarco Murray Really Tally a 2,000-Yard Season?
He's a 217-pound running back with 4.41 speed. He runs with a noticeably forceful, urgent burst and certainly isn't afraid to lower his shoulder to plow through defenders. That is, of course, only if he can't evade them in the open field with his booming acceleration and deceptive agility.
No, DeMarco Murray.
Although similarities between Murray and Peterson are only in their physical appearance and running styles, the Dallas Cowboys runner said the following, per Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News, in response to a question about running for 2,000 yards in a season, something the reigning NFL MVP did in 2012.
"I think I’m capable of anything."
While that's far from an outright guarantee, Murray's confident comment has made many think about the possibility of him becoming the eighth member of professional football's most prestigious running back club.
Outside of tremendous natural ability, a multitude of things have to go right for a back to reach the 2,000-yard plateau, so let's dive into Murray's chances of achieving immortality.
In order to run for 2,000 yards, a running back must average 125 yards per game over a full, 16-game regular season.
As pointed out by ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio, Murray had single-game outputs of 253, 139, 135, and 131 yards all in his first nine contests as the Cowboys feature back.
In his first 16 games as the main guy in Dallas, a period that spanned from the middle of 2011 through late in the 2012 campaign, Murray accumulated 1,371 yards, a respectable total but clearly well short of 2,000.
Actually, his last 100-yard performance came in the season-opener against the New York Giants a year ago.
To put succinctly, Murray's "first" nine games provided a glimpse of what the former Oklahoma Sooners star is capable of, but since then, he's been average at best.
Cowboys' Offensive History
With a 253-yard and three 130-plus-yard efforts, along with five games of 40 yards or less, Murray's been the definition of "boom-or-bust" with the Cowboys.
As it currently stands, Murray's career yards-per-carry average is 4.8, which is .2 yards lower than Peterson's (in 1,429 fewer carries).
Take away the first five games of his NFL career, before he was the unquestioned starter in Dallas, and Murray's yards-per-carry average is 4.95.
His 25-carry, 253-yard breakout campaign is majorly responsible for his relatively high per-carry efficiency and overall yardage sum, but there have been four instances in which Murray averaged at least five yards per carry in a game when he was not given more than 14 carries.
Also, Tony Romo's presence mustn't be ignored. Fully healthy a season ago, the polarizing quarterback threw the ball 648 times, which was the third-highest total in the NFL.
As a team, per ProFootballFocus (subscription required) the Cowboys ran 703 pass plays to only 355 on the ground, which equated to a run percentage of 33.55, a offensive tendency that doesn't bode well for Murray's 2,000-yard chances.
To compare, the Minnesota Vikings ran 591 pass plays to 515 runs in 2012, a run percentage 46.5 percent.
This chart illustrates how truly stark the contrast was:
Not surprisingly, in Murray's non-100 yard games, his cumulative yards-per-carry average dipped to 3.89, definitely not part of the recipe for a 2,000-yard masterpiece.
Additionally, he only averages 82.6 yards per game in his 18 games as the "starter."
If Murray was given the 348 carries Peterson received in 2012, at the 4.95 yards-per-carry he averages in 18 games as the starter, he'd finish a full season with 1,722 yards.
Therefore, Murray would have to be fed the ball a whopping 405 times—an attempt total which would be exceeded only by James Wilder in 1984, Jamal Anderson in 1998 and Larry Johnson in 2007—to eclipse 2,000 yards.
Actually, in the theoretical, absolute best-case scenario, extrapolating the 6.0 yard-per-carry average Murray had in his first nine games as the starter in Dallas, 334 carries would get him to 2,000.
However, in an offense that appeared to be decidedly pass-predicated in 2012—and forced to throw more when trailing—it seems as though Murray would be lucky to get 300 carries, much less 400. Even 334 would be considered far fetched.
The Cowboys' dedication to frequently passing the football isn't the only part of history that suggests Murray would have an exceptionally difficult time reaching 2,000 yards in a season.
The powerful runner has dealt with a variety of injuries early in his career.
Murray has appeared in 23 of a possible 32 games since joining the Cowboys in 2011, and he missed six games in 2012 with a nagging foot injury.
While some firmly believe in the term "injury-prone," injuries seem to be more random than anything else, so there's no real way to predict if Murray can stay healthy or not. Then again, his ultra-violent running style would lend credence to the idea that he may be more "prone" to injuries than other backs who avoid contact more often.
And we can all agree—to get to 2,000 yards, Murray has to play in all 16 games.
From physical and athletic standpoints, Murray is, somewhat surprisingly, quite similar to Peterson, although AP, overall, is more of a freakish specimen. They're comparable in size and stature, boast nearly identical timed speed, run with extreme urgency and rarely shy away from contact.
Will DeMarco Murray near the 2,000-yard mark in 2012?
And, no, Murray wouldn't have to follow Peterson's exact path to 2,000 yards, but as the most recent 2,000-yard rusher, Peterson's 2012 campaign is the most logical blueprint in today's NFL, one that's become more and more reliant on the pass.
A monstrous season can appear out of nowhere, so it'd be foolish to say Murray is definitely incapable of amassing 2,000 yards in a given regular season.
If healthy, and if the Cowboys undergo a seismic shift in their offensive philosophy to give Murray at least 330 carries—the addition of first-round pick, offensive lineman Travis Frederick should also help—it's possible for the talented Dallas runner to, at the very least, near 2,000 yards on the ground.
But those are two significant "ifs," that, in all likelihood, will keep Murray away from rarefied running back distinction.
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