DeMarco Murray Over LeSean McCoy? No Sir!
- Updated: March 13, 2015
DeMarco Murray was a key cog in the Dallas Cowboys offense last season. He essentially was the focal point of everything they did. So it was assumed by some that he would be remaining there when he was a free agent this offseason. But with he and star wide receiver Dez Bryant being free agents, there was as decision the Cowboys had to make. Do they keep the stud receiver or the running back that everything was centered around? The Cowboys chose Bryant and even though they made an offer to him, Murray decided he wanted to play in another city. But this just was not any city he chose on Thursday. Murray decided to join one of the rivals of the Cowboys, the Philadelphia Eagles. The running back and the Eagles agreed to a five year contract worth $42 million ($21 million in guaranteed money according to ESPN). And just like that, Murray steps right in and replaces the departed LeSean “Shady” McCoy, who was traded away to the Buffalo Bills officially this week for linebacker and former Oregon Duck Kiko Alonso. Murray brings a hard-running back that has less wiggle than McCoy but more of a North/South running style. But is he really a better fit for the Eagles than McCoy?
Going into the offseason, no one expected the trade of McCoy to the Bills. In fact, there was a lot of shock and disbelief that it even happened. When he was traded, the Eagles were later linked to the talents of Frank Gore. But with his change of heart and decision to sign with the Colts, that opened the door for the Eagles to go after Murray. With Murray in the fold, the Eagles do get a better finisher at the goal line. But the question of Murray over McCoy is steeped in more than just goal line runs. McCoy and Murray will be the same age at the beginning of the season (27), but Shady has been in the NFL longer than Murray and has missed less games. From that aspect, it has to be monitored as to how Murray holds up as the season goes on. The good thing for Murray is he will not have to share the workload in Philly as the main back as much as he did in Dallas. The Eagles signed former San Diego running back Ryan Matthews to share the workload and they still have utility back Darren Sproles to make some things happen, but Matthews has been susceptible to injury his entire career in San Diego and Sproles cannot hold up but for so many carries per game. In McCoy, you had a back that not only was durable, but could take all the carries that the team would give him and not have worries about if he was going to get hurt. And if he did get hurt, he played through the injuries more times than naught. In that aspect, McCoy would have still been the more reliable one because up until last season, Murray had never played one full season with no injuries. And with the usage that Murray had last year (over 370 carries in one season), a running back historically usually has a drop off in performance the following season. In fact, one running back, Larry Johnson, was not the same again after he had a breakout season in 2006.
But more than durability concerns, there are also concerns about the effect Murray will have in this offense outside of Dallas. Murray is effective in the passing game and can do more than what you saw from him with the Cowboys. He can run some routes and he can also make some miss in the open field on occasion. But there is no doubt that he is a running back that is not as elusive as McCoy. Despite the knock on McCoy of being a side-to-side runner, he can make people miss better than anyone in the game. And with the style of offense that Kelly runs in Philly, McCoy would be extremely dangerous on those swing passes out of the backfield that Chip likes to use his players on. If you tried the same things with Murray he would be dead in the water because of his lack of shiftiness. The lack of shiftiness can be overcome with the Sproles in there with him, but you then run the risk of overusing Sproles. And when you do, that is when Sproles and players like him end up getting injured. But Murray will also be tested on his abilities in the running game. He had a great season last year, but many attribute that to the offensive line he had and not to his ability to run. Going into 2015, he will get to prove how good he is behind a line that was one of the worst run-blocking lines in the NFL. Some would say that their numbers may have been skewed due to the style of back they had in Shady, but when you are missing three starters for different points of the season, there is no doubt that Shady was running for his life back there sometimes. And to his credit, he was still able to accumulate 1300 yards rushing while dealing with the line issues. We will see if Murray can do what Shady did, but honestly, I would not expect it.
Look for Murray to have a regression in Philly while McCoy will continue to flourish in the Bills system. And for those that continue to say that this may have been a contract issue, Shady’s deal could have been redone and he could have been extended. It had been rumored that Shady did not want to redo his deal at all and that he was not going to take a paycut, but like other things that are out there, that cannot be confirmed. But the fact remains that Shady apparently was not approached about a reworking of his deal and they decided to move him. Going forward, the Eagles will now have put their hopes in a running back that has had problems staying healthy his entire career. And they have let go a very productive back that fit their offense. Some call Chip Kelly The Mad Scientist, but in this one I call him the Gambler. He is gambling on Kiko Alonso coming back and being strong. He is gambling on Sam Bradford being healthy and productive in his system. He is gambling on Byron Maxwell being worth the big contract Philly gave him. And he is also banking on Murray to deliver despite previously having a back that could have delivered for him. It should be interesting to see how this experiment ends up. But one thing remains true: Murray is now on the other side of enemy lines. And he will now be lining up to try and get his former team two times a year. But can he really be the pain in the butt that Shady was to the Cowboys and others consistently remains to be seen.