DeMarco Murray Fantasy: Tread Carefully with Dallas Cowboys Rookie Running Back

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIOctober 25, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 23: Running back DeMarco Murray #29 of the Dallas Cowboys breaks free for a 91-yard touchdown run against the St. Louis Rams at Cowboys Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  Murray broke an all-time Cowboy rushing record with 253 yards.  (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

DeMarco Murray gave the Dallas Cowboys the game of a lifetime against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.  Murray broke the Cowboys single-game rushing record with 253 yards.  Murray's touchdown run was eight yards shy of the longest run in Cowboys history.

Despite his record-setting performance and his earth-shattering run, Murray's game was just a game.  Fantasy team owners can pat themselves on the back for adding Murray—who would do little more than mutter acknowledgement if said fantasy owners thanked him. 

Nonetheless, the game is just a game for Murray.  This wasn't a huge Texas-style debutante coming out party for the rookie from Oklahoma.  Murray had only rushed for 71 yards on 24 carries before Sunday.  Before Sunday, Murray was hardly a significant factor in the Cowboys attack.

While Murray may have earned himself elevation in the depth chart, he shouldn't be coveted by every desperate fantasy team owner.

His huge game could be the start of something big or just a blip among many NFL happenings.  The crystal ball is cloudy.

Reminder:  Murray Busted the Worst Rush Defense in the League.

Picking up either Murray or Tashard Choice was a no-brainer.  The Cowboys faced the worst rushing defense in the NFL in the Rams.  After Sunday, the Rams had allowed 183.8 rushing yards per game, 32.9 more than the Colts, the second worst team in that category. 

In Week 1, the Rams gave LeSean McCoy only his fourth 100-yard game of his career.  Same for Washington Redskins running back Ryan Torain, who has rushed for 17 yards in two games since his Week 5 breakout performance against the Rams.

Running up 253 yards against the Rams was nothing.  That was pinball machine action.  Murray's breakout game was the equivalent of Francisco Liriano's no-hitter of the Chicago White Sox on May 3.  Liriano shut down a team that couldn't hit.  Both Murray and Liriano had it made.

The Cowboys Didn't Need to Pass Against the Rams.

In a 34-7 victory, like that which the Cowboys claimed against the Rams, passing doesn't play a big role.  Jason Garrett recognized that against the Rams.  Romo threw the ball only 24 times.  Murray ran the ball 25 times.

Since the Cowboys had cemented victory early in the second half, Garrett didn't need to make Tony Romo drop back to pass much.  Romo was able to take it easy and hand it off to Murray and Choice.  Garrett didn't need to worry much about the possibility of Romo throwing an interception either.

That likelihood decreased significantly with Murray running the ball more than Romo passed.

Usually, the Cowboys—like almost every other team in the NFL—pass more than they rush.  On the season, the Cowboys run pass plays 61 percent of the time.  Sunday was an anomaly. 

Garrett won't lean as heavily on the run against the Philadephia Eagles as he did against the Rams.

Murray Is a Coin Flip Against the Eagles.

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 23:   Head Coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys smiles at some fans before a game against the St. Louis Rams at the Cowboy Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  The Cowboys defeated the Rams 34 to 7.  (Photo by Wes
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Murray may or may not crack another big game against the Eagles.  The sky might not shine for Murray the same as it did on Sunday.  He had only rushed for 2.96 yards per carry entering the game.  Also, a rookie may shine one week and struggle the next.

The Eagles aren't much of a power stopping the run.  Defending the run, the Eagles rank 23rd, allowing 123.8 yards per game.  In their first five games, the Eagles had allowed 100 yards rushing in each contest.  Michael Turner, Frank Gore, and Fred Jackson—the colossal from Coe College—each had 100-yard games against the Eagles.

On Sunday, the Eagles had a rush defense epiphany.  They allowed 42 yards rushing, holding Torain to minus-5 yards.

Perhaps, the Eagles will feast on Murray, as well.

Also, Garrett may elect to ride the passing game against the Eagles.  The Cowboys may face deficits on Sunday against the Eagles, which will necessitate good use of Romo's arm.  Anyway, Garrett may lean heavily on Romo in order to establish a significant lead.

Even though the Eagles are 2-4, they aren't a team to take lightly.  McCoy and Michael Vick will surely keep the Eagles in the game.  Thus, Garrett may need to direct his attention to the passing game.

Ergo, Murray may be looking at fewer carries.

Conclusion:  Murray Won't Duplicate His Performance Against the Rams

Fantasy owners may flock to Murray.  That's all for good reason.  He'll face the subpar rush defense of the Eagles.  Murray may receive the bulk of the carries.

However, to expect him to come close to what he did on Sunday would be expecting too much.  If Murray runs for half as many yards against the Eagles as he did against the Rams, it would be a success.  One doesn't expect Murray to carry the ball 20 times.  Garrett will likely have Romo throw the ball more.

Another 100-yard game isn't out of the cards.  Much more than that is pure fantasy.


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