Will the Real DeMarco Murray Please Stand Up?
By Ha Kung Wong Chicago Bears
One of the many questions plaguing the minds of Philadelphia Eagles fans, and fantasy football players, this year is whether 2014’s rushing leader, DeMarco Murray, was a good off-season acquisition and a real upgrade over LeSean McCoy. If you look at the numbers today, the answer appears to be no. But perhaps that isn’t the entire story.
If I had told you in the preseason that Ryan Mathews would be the leading rusher on the Philadelphia after 5 weeks, you’d think I was completely looney tunes. But as we wait for the 6th Sunday of NFL Football to commence, that’s exactly where we’re at. Sure, DeMarco Murray did miss a game due to injury, and it’s not like Ryan Mathews is setting the world afire with 205 yards on 41 carries with 2 TDs. But Murray has been worse, with more carries, totaling a sickly 130 yards and 2 TDs on 49 carries, sporting a subpar 2.7 yards per carry. Heck, I think Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman topped 130 yards and 2 TDs EACH of the last three weeks all on his own.
The difference for Murray, though, is that he finally received significant double digit carries (20) in Week 5 and managed 83 yards and a TD, adding 7 receptions for another 37 yards. Is this the start of what we expected out of Murray in the preseason, or merely an in-season aberration? Probably a little bit of both.
The Eagles offensive line has been brutal this year with run blocking. According to Football Outsiders, Eagles running backs were “stuffed” (i.e. tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage) 28% of the time, good for being second most “stuffed” team in the league. Hard to make positive yards when the defense is getting to you before you even cross the line of scrimmage. So not all of Murray’s lack of production is directly on him.
That being said, the line seems to be improving, and as Sam Bradford becomes more efficient with his receivers, opposing defenses will have to back off the line more, leaving more room to run for Murray and friends. This week against the New York Giants will be an interesting test case if Chip Kelly decides to feed Murray significant double digit carries again (particularly since Mathews may be limited with a minor injury this week), as the Giants defense has been stout against the run, allowing only 80.6 rush yards per game, good for second best in the NFL. Keep a close eye on how this one turns out. It may be a turning point for Murray and the Eagles.