Scout's Eye takes a look at the Running Backs:
As much as we have focused on the improvement of the offensive line this season and their ability to create running lanes for these backs, you need to give a tip of the cap to what DeMarco Murray was able to do this season as well.
No player on this squad played with a bigger chip on his shoulder than what Murray was carrying when camp opened in Oxnard. It wasn't whispers that Murray was hearing about his inability to play an entire season, it was flat-out yelling.
Murray was truly in the cross roads of his career and the decision that he made in the spring of 2013 after finishing an injured plagued season, he recommitted himself to improving his physical conditioning. It was not that Murray was afraid of working hard but how he went about the task is what improved. By the time that the club was making their plans for training camp, Murray was a member of the offseason conditioning award group. Physically he looked different and his running style appeared to have gained some initial quickness to his first step.
There were few practices where Murray was not mixing it up with Sean Lee whether that was in 9-on-7 or one-on-one pass protection drills. Murray was always looking to take on the biggest kid on the block and Lee was more than willing to take that role. There were some intense physical battles that were always the highlight of my days in observing practice.
Murray was able to carry this attitude over into the season and despite missing the Philadelphia and Detroit games, he continued to play with that chip on his shoulder. He was the one offensive skill player other than Dez Bryant and Jason Witten that never came off the field. It didn't matter the down and distance, Murray was going to be in the mix.
Though he is not the most explosive back when he comes to extending runs, he did show those running traits that many in the media believed were his downfall. There were situations where a former player called him out for leaving yards on the field but if that player would have watched Murray play complete games, he would have seen that really wasn't the case at all.
Not only did Murray give this club those important yards on the ground but he was even better catching the ball out of the backfield. Where people do not give Murray enough credit is how complete a running back he really is. When you are trying to scout running backs, you look for those guys that have traits in all three areas of running, catching and blocking.
There were several games this season where the team was mounting a comeback and Murray had a key block on a protection that allowed the drive to continue. He was a master at reading the defensive scheme and taking care of the right man.
Where I felt like that this staff missed the boat offensively, was not allowing Lance Dunbar to be more of part of the game plan. I understand that there were the concerns of him putting the ball on the ground but like we saw in the Raiders game, there was also the potential for explosive plays. It was a shame that it took until Week 12 to realize what potential they had with him.
Joseph Randle made the two starts that Murray missed in Philadelphia and Detroit with some positive runs. What Randle lacked in experience, he made up with a physical style. Depending on who you talk to, there is a belief that if Randle had the opportunities to run the ball as Murray was able to, he would have been just as productive, so that tells you what folks in the organization feel about him. [embedded_ad]
Phillip Tanner is a core special teamer for this team and a good one at that. There are few positions that Tanner cannot line up for Rich Bisaccia and there is a great deal of confidence in him when he puts him out on the field. Tanner like Randle saw some action in those games while Murray was out and what you can always count on is a physical player, that doesn't have a bunch of elusive moves but instead will hammer the ball downhill at you. I have always been a big fan of Tanner's because when you take him to the game like Bill Parcells use to want, you get a player that you get a lot of plays from.
Looking forward DeMarco Murray begins his 4th season with the team and the thought seems to be not only with the Cowboys but around the league to not extend contracts of running backs. Teams are figuring out ways to play with multiple guys instead of just having one featured back. Murray is a throwback to the way that football use to be played but that just is not the case anymore. As a group, Gary Brown's guys did a nice job when you look at all the different roles in which they play. In 2014, I expect that we will see more of Joseph Randle, to see if he can in fact be that player that many in this organization believe that he could become.