DeMarco Murray's Magical Number of 18 and What it Means to Dallas Cowboys

By Ben Grimaldi
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarco Murray is one of the best running backs in the NFL when healthy. Unfortunately, it’s the last part of that sentence that has the Dallas Cowboys and their fans worried because Murray’s health continues to be an issue. History tells us if Murray can manage to stay injury free for the Cowboys, they can have a great amount of success.

Actually staying healthy and getting at least 18 carries a game could ensure success for the Cowboys. Almost every Cowboys fan knows the statistic; when DeMarco Murray gets at least 18 carries in a game, Dallas is 9-0 since he’s taken over as the starting running back. They are 1-8 in games where he’s had fewer than 18 handoffs, which includes games where he has left because of injury.

By comparison, in games where Murray and quarterback Tony Romo played in the same game, the Cowboys are 6-7 when Romo has over 30 pass attempts.

If anyone has any questions as to what the Cowboys need to do this season on offense, those stats should tell you all you need to know. The Cowboys need to get Murray involved early and often to make sure the offense stays balanced. Giving a starting running back in the NFL 18 carries a game is commonplace and the Cowboys should be doing it more with Murray.

I’m well aware the Cowboys want to preserve Murray and they’re worried about his running style leading to injuries but 18 carries isn’t a lot of wear and tear on a running back. In fact, giving Murray approximately those amount of carries could be better for him in the long run. If Dallas makes the commitment to run Murray 20 times a game, they could limit his hits in an effort to keep him healthy.

There is no need to make him a true workhorse who gets 25 carries a week, but 18-20 totes a game is a good number for Murray. The Cowboys have a stable full of running backs they like behind Murray so giving him a rest to avoid the number of hits he would take makes perfect sense. Dallas loves the progress they’ve seen from second-year runner Lance Dunbar, who they feel is a great change of pace back, and the also like the way Phillip Tanner has remade his body. According to all reports, Tanner is lighter and quicker this year and will be difficult to knock off the roster.

Dallas also believes rookie Joseph Randle can handle the load if Murray gets hurt in 2013, even though he’s yet to practice with the team because of a thumb injury.

All of these running backs could take some of the pressure off of DeMarco Murray and make him a more effective runner. The plan should be very simple; give Murray 20 carries a game and supplement him with any of the capable back-ups to reduce the amount of hits a vulnerable player takes. This way Murray can hopefully stay healthy throughout the season and give the Cowboys the balance they need on offense.

Don’t get me wrong, Murray is more than capable of handling a bigger work load but keeping his carries down is the smarter thing to do. Bad luck or not, Murray does have a history of injuries and balancing his effectiveness with keeping him healthy is a fine line; one that can be drawn at a minimum of 18 carries.

DeMarco Murray needs to carry the ball at least 18 times a games this season for the Dallas Cowboys because if history has taught us anything, it’s that the Cowboys don’t lose when he gets that number of carries. If Dallas don’t learn from history, they’re doomed to repeat it.

Ben is a Cowboys writer for and you can chat with or follow him on twitter @BenGrimaldi, or add him on Google+

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