Last week, rookie DeMarco Murray had the best single day for any Cowboys running back in franchise history. But with Tashard Choice suddenly gone and Felix Jones out with an ankle injury, the Cowboys are taking a significant risk by making Murray the lead dog.
Murray had more than his share of injuries during four years at Oklahoma, and the inability of a tailback to show durability at the college level usually translates to an inability to stay healthy at the NFL level, given that he’s being hit by much bigger and stronger and faster grown men in the pro game.
In his redshirt freshman year of 2007, Murray suffered a dislocated kneecap late in the season, missed the rest of the campaign, and also was unavailable for spring practice. In 2008, he suffered a hamstring injury during the opening kickoff of the Big 12 championship and missed the BCS title game a month later. Even last year, when he started 14 games, there were questions about his availability for the Big 12 championship game due to a knee injury. That could be one of the reasons why Murray, who rushed for 1,214 yards last season, was on the board in round three of the April draft.
“People always want to mention the injuries, but I missed four games in four years and that was in the beginning of my career, and I had no [serious] problems after that,” Murray said in April, via Rainer Sabin of the Dallas Morning News.
Still, when Murray showed up for work after the lockout, he started his career on the non-football injury list with a hamstring problem.
Though it doesn’t mean Murray will shatter or otherwise break tonight against the Eagles, it means that he’s likely not destined to become the next Emmitt Smith, whose best attribute wasn’t blazing speed or uncanny elusiveness but an ability to suit up and play — and play hard — every Sunday for years and years.
And if Murray goes down tonight against the Eagles, the only other option will be undrafted Phillip Tanner, who as Peter King pointed out during Saturday’s Notre Dame halftime update never rushed for more than 1,000 yards in four seasons at Middle Tennessee State.
King also pointed out that the decision to dump Choice was fueled by the fact that he doesn’t play special teams — and by a perception that he was moping this week after Murray’s 253-yard breakout performance against the Rams.
Cowboys fans will be moping if/when Murray’s breakout is followed by a breakdown of his body.