One of the biggest reasons for the Dallas Cowboys’ lack of consistent success during the 2012 season was a subpar ground game. Although they have some talent at the running back spot, it’s getting harder and harder to believe that their runner of the future is on the roster.
The only current Cowboys running back who has the potential to be a multi-year starter is DeMarco Murray, who was drafted back in 2011. Since he came to Dallas, he has flashed elite abilities. The only thing keeping him out of the top-tier of NFL running backs is the fact that he’s constantly on the injured list.
When Murray finally found some consistent playing time during his rookie season, it appeared that the Cowboys had found their feature back. In 13 appearances (seven starts), Murray picked up 897 yards and two touchdowns on 164 carries. He first erupted into the spotlight with a 253-yard performance against the St. Louis Rams in Week 7, and was the Dallas starter from there until breaking his leg in Week 14. A promising season had come to an unfortunate end, but Murray seemed determined to return in 2012 ready to repeat his impressive production.
The 2012 season provided Murray with another opportunity to prove his worth, and all seemed right after his 131-yard Week 1 performance. A few weeks later, as fate would have it, he suffered a foot injury that shelved him until Week 13. After re-entering the Cowboys lineup, Murray just didn’t look like the same player. He ran with hesitance and failed to show the spark that made him such a promise prospect during his rookie campaign.
Regardless of how much potential Murray holds as a feature back, it’s hard to imagine that his body can take the type of punishment that will certainly come with being the Cowboy’s workhorse. In his two years with the team, he has failed to give his teammates, the coaching staff, or fans confidence in his abilities as a full-time back.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their roster doesn’t offer much each at the position that would make them comfortable with reducing Murray’s role. Former starter Felix Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas and likely won’t be back next season, while Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar are serviceable backups at best.
Especially with the recent firing of running backs coach Skip Peete, it’s apparent that the Cowboys are tired of settling for mediocrity. If they have any hopes of asserting themselves as contenders in 2013, they’ll need to light a fire under their running game, even if that means starting from square one.
Murray has the potential to be a star for the Cowboys. It’s just too bad his durability issues may keep him from ever reaching it.