How Much Should Dallas Cowboys Really Expect from DeMarco Murray in 2014?

Alex HallCorrespondent IIIJuly 10, 2014

Jun 17, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs drills during minicamp at Cowboys headquarters at Valley Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarco Murray is one of the more exciting young running backs in the NFL today, and he is coming off a career year in 2013.

He has also failed to play a full 16-game regular season since being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2011.

Dallas is undefeated in games in which the offense has given Murray 20 or more attempts. Last season, he had 20 or more attempts just three times. 

When factoring in the ups and downs of Murray's career so far, Dallas should expect high production from No. 29 if he gets enough touches.

Despite the sometimes puzzling lack of rushing in the Cowboys offense last year, Murray posted 1,121 yards and nine touchdowns, both career highs. His efforts earned him a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.

In many ways, the two biggest derailments in Murray's career have been his health and the fact that he has been underutilized. Injuries can't be prevented, but Murray should be touching the football as much as possible. 

Based on the numbers he was able to put up last season, he could easily put up 1,500 yards and 10-13 touchdowns in 2014 if he becomes more involved in the offense. He has the talent to become one of the top rushers in the league. At least statistically, Murray was the 10th-best in the league last year.

It's also worth keeping in mind that Murray is entering a contract year, so another stellar year means a bigger contract from Dallas or another franchise.

Though he is known as pass-happy, passing game coordinator Scott Linehan told Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News that the offense will lean heavily on Murray this year. 

Linehan ran the Detroit Lions offense last year, and the duo of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell tallied more than a combined 1,600 yards and 12 end-zone trips. Those numbers helped the Lions post the No. 17 rushing attack in the NFL last year, seven spots ahead of Dallas.

The Lions offense was indeed a pass-first offense during his four-year tenure, but the running game wasn't always ignored. 

It would be hard to believe that the offensive coaches in Dallas, including Linehan, don't realize Murray needs to be more of a focal point after his impressive 2013 campaign. And the rusher is ready to take on a bigger role.

"I think that his confidence level is up," running backs coach Gary Brown told Steve Hunt of the Tulsa World. "It's just a matter of getting him out there and getting in those 300 carries like a lot of these guys are getting and let's see where he falls then."

Dallas' starting running back appears determined to take another step forward in his career this season. 

Murray is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and he is fresh off the best season of his career. If the Cowboys are serious about giving him a bigger role, all signs point to Murray putting together another career year.