Nobody could blame the Philadelphia Eagles if they were souring on DeMarco Murray. The soon-to-be-former NFL rushing champion is averaging a disappointing 3.5 yards per carry in 2015 and has been outperformed by every running back on the roster.
That being said, who would've imagined Murray would finish not second, but third on the Eagles in carries against the New England Patriots on Sunday, with backup Ryan Mathews out of the lineup no less?
Murray toted the rock just eight times for a disappointing 24 yards in the 35-28 Eagles victory. Interestingly enough, Darren Sproles got the start and ran 15 times for 66 yards, while Kenjon Barner went from healthy inactive in six games this year to nine rushing attempts for 39 yards.
Is it a sign the Eagles have finally lost faith in Murray?
|Murray's Last 3 Games Rushing|
|Wk 11 v TB||13||64||4.9||0|
|Wk 12 @ DET||14||30||2.1||0|
|Wk 13 @ NE||8||24||3.0||0|
Postgame, head coach Chip Kelly claimed matchups dictated the Sproles-Barner combo saw more action. Supposedly it was the size of the Patriots linebackers that made shiftier, quick-twitch backs a better method of attack than a two-time Pro Bowler.
Then again, perhaps the writing was on the wall even prior to Sunday. Mathews missed the previous two games as well, and contrary to what most observers would've thought going into the games, Murray did not reap the benefits of a larger workload.
Oh, he was the leading rusher for the Eagles in Weeks 11 and 12. In terms of reps, however, Murray was not the bell-cow back. According to Pro Football Focus, the fifth-year veteran was on the field for 30 of 74 offensive plays vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 35 of 60 against the Detroit Lions.
Of course, those were both blowout losses for the Eagles as well, perhaps necessitating more Sproles and Barner for the pass-catching ability out of the backfield. Still, it's difficult not to draw some conclusions from the mounting evidence from the past three games.
Murray has not looked explosive with the ball in his hands all season. Some of his struggles have been the result of an inconsistent offensive line. Some of it has been his unwillingness to pound the ball into the hole, instead trying to stretch too many plays outside.
It could be last season's high-volume workload with the Dallas Cowboys has taken its toll, and as many predicted Murray is not the same player. The nearly 500 touches he logged between regular season and playoffs in 2014 certainly could have a lasting, negative impact.
Whatever the case may be, it's looking increasingly like the Eagles are not thrilled with their prize free-agent signing.
The problem is Murray and the Eagles are stuck with each other for at least another season, probably two. According to Spotrac, trading or releasing the back would result in $13 million in dead money against the salary cap as opposed to keeping him for an $8 million hit. In 2017, the cap hit rises to $9 million, while the organization would still eat $5 million in a parting of ways.
Murray is an Eagle for the foreseeable future, no matter how much or little he's handed the ball. Should Mathews, Sproles and even Barner continue to outproduce their handsomely paid teammate, it should probably continue trending toward little.
The final four games will tell whether the Eagles have lost confidence in Murray or if Sunday was an anomaly.
All quotes were obtained firsthand.