IRVING, Texas – Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown might have been scouting for the future, but he certainly seems happy with the present.
Brown was one of several Cowboys staffers to take the trip to Baton Rouge, La., earlier this week for LSU's Pro Day. It might seem telling that Brown had an eye on LSU standout running back Jeremy Hill during his workout Wednesday, but that's not a knock on the backfield preparing to start its offseason conditioning program.
"I feel really good about my guys. The room is strong, the guys are confident," Brown said. "It's just a matter of getting us back into the weight room, getting ready for another good season and helping us win some games."
Regardless of whether the Cowboys add another running back, it's fair to say the focus is once again going to fall on DeMarco Murray. The former third-round draft pick finished with his first 1,000-yard season and his first Pro Bowl selection last year – something Brown expects to see more of moving forward.
"He's just scratched the surface. I think he's one of the better backs in the league – he just has to go out and prove it now," Brown said. "People now know his name, he's been in the Pro Bowl – people are going to know who he is. So now it's more of a challenge to go out and play well, and I think he's going to go out and take that challenge full force and have another good season."
Murray rolled into the Pro Bowl on the strength of his last seven games, which saw him average 17 carries and 95 yards per week. That's contrasted against the first half of the season, in which he missed two games while averaging 13.5 carries and 65.5 yards per game.
The two biggest knocks on Murray to this point have been touches and durability. Based on his form in the second half of 2013, Brown said it's exciting to see what a full season of that production could bring.
"It's a compliment to that offensive line and what Coach Callahan and Coach Pollack are doing," he said. "It's DeMarco buying into the system and believing in the system, and it's working out well. And I think with another year in the system, we're going to be better."
Of course, that possibility raises the talking point that's surrounded Murray since he made the Pro Bowl: money. He is set to begin the final season of his rookie contract, which raises many conversations about his future – particularly if he meets or surpasses expectations.
Brown, himself an eight year veteran of the position with the Oilers, Chargers and Giants, said he has made it a point to emphasize the task at hand to Murray, rather than his contract status, as the offseason program approaches. [embedded_ad]
"Being a human being, it's on your mind, but I think if you take care of your business – and that's what I try to convey to him – if you take care of what you need to take care of, that'll take care of itself," Brown said. "You can't put too much pressure on yourself and say 'Oh, it's a contract year. I've got to go out and play well.' No, you've got to go out and play well so we can win the Super Bowl. If that happens, we'll all benefit."
In addition to Murray, Brown returns speedster Lance Dunbar from knee injury – he said the diminutive back is doing well. And of course, the Cowboys just spent a draft pick on Joseph Randle, though that won't stop them from doing their research – hence, Brown's visit to see Hill.
"We're always trying to improve and get better," he said. "I'm not saying we're going to draft Jeremy, but you never know what's going to happen in this business."