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Redskins @ Cowboys Week 8 Player Spotlight: DeMarco Murray

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Their entire OL has been playing great and they've helped RB DeMarco Murray begin this year in Jim Brown, record-setting fashion.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarco Murray

Running Back

Age: 26

History Against the Redskins

Murray has faced the Redskins five times.  The Cowboys have won four of those contests.  On a personal level, the Redskins have fared pretty well against him, though.  He's only averaged 56 ypg against us and has a below average 3.8 ypc.  He's also only had three TD's in the five games.

Last year in the two games Murray had against the Redskins, the Cowboys won both.  He basically had one bad game and one good game.  In the first game he only had 29 yards and seven carries (though he did have a TD).  The second game was better for him, but nowhere near this year's standards with 96 yards on 22 carries with 2 TD's.

Form

What is there to say?  He's been the best RB in the entire league this year and is the primary reason (along with the OL and the play-calling to actually run him) why the Cowboys are sitting at 6-1 when most people before the season looked at their defense and Romo's back and assumed they'd be closer to 1-6.  Murray has suffered multiple injuries in the past over his career, but he has been healthy and receiving a number of carries that he himself, nor just about any RB ever have seen.  He's in the prime of his career and the Cowboys seemed to have gotten the memo from the past few years that they should give him the ball and let him run rather than having Tony OhNo! throw the ball a billion times a game.  It's worked.

Last year, Murray played and started a career high 14 games.  He ran for 1,121 yards and 9 TD's while adding 350 receiving yards and another TD from Romo.  He had 217 carries.  It was a career year for Murray as he began realizing his potential.  The Cowboys began to realize, too.  Murray currently leads the league through seven weeks with 187 carries.  Yeah, that's only 30 less than he had the entirety of last year.  He also already has 913 rushing yards, 7 rushing TD's, and 159 receiving yards.  If he didn't take another snap this would be the second-best rushing season of his career behind only last year.  At this pace, and there's basically no way he could possibly continue this pace, Murray would break records.  He's on pace to finish the season with 427 carries, 2,087 rushing yards, 16 TD's, and 363 receiving yards.  Those are historical numbers.

Still, it's been quantity just as much quality with regards to Murray's running this year.  He's averaging 4.9 ypc, which is excellent, but it's also the same amount he's averaged his entire career.  This suggests that the hype and gaudy numbers are largely a result of a focused running game and a change in culture in Dallas.  This new culture seems to be built on an impressive OL and a commitment to the run game.  Unfortunately for all us Redskin fans who have been begging for this for years, it's working really well... for the Cowboys.

Murray hasn't shown any signs of slowing recently, either.  He's the first ever RB to begin a season with seven straight 100+ yard rushing games.  That's right.  If we hold him to double-digits, it'll be the first time for him this year.  Tall task.  The Redskins have to plan for a lot of carries and maybe hope the workload is starting to get to him, because in the last three games for Murray, he's carried the rock 31, 29, and 28 times.  That's a lot of pounding.  One tape that I'm sure the Redskins are checking out is the Cowboy game against the Seahawks two weeks ago.  While he still accumulated 115 yards on the ground against a good Seahawk defense, they held him to his lowest ypc all season.  That number?  4.  It's crazy, right?  He's had over 100 yards every game and in no game has he averaged less than 4 ypc.  Again, tall task.

Skills

Murray has an excellent blend of strength and speed.  He's more the elusive-type back (like LeSean McCoy) than the bruiser like Al-Mo.  He has incredible burst and initial speed when he hits the hole and he really gets up to speed quickly.  He's also very shift, not quite at the level of McCoy, but he can juke most defenders with ease.  Murray has an excellent frame for a RB at 6', 217 lbs.  He tends to run a little upright and takes hits in a way that does a lot of damage to his body.  His pad level usually isn't low enough and this causes Murray to go down easier than average when a defender gets to him.  The trouble is getting to him.  He's been labeled as fragile but seems to be proving the opposite this year.  It really doesn't matter much because his OL is letting him get a few yards downfield before he ever gets touched.  He has quick feet and is very good at dancing in a tight space.

Potential Against the Redskins

Well, potentially Murray will run for 100+ yards on 4+ ypc.  That'd be right in line with what he's done literally every single game this year.  The Cowboys OL is just as much the story as Murray because they are paving the way and allowing Murray to get sometimes three and four yards downfield before first contact.  This will obviously be the primary concern for the 'Skins on Monday night and priority #1 for Jim Haslett and the defense.  The Redskins have fared fairly well against the run this season and pride themselves on stopping the run first.  Hopefully the guys will be hyped (Jason Hatcher) to shut down this running game (or at least slow it) and be the first team this year to hold Murray below 100 yards.  I think it's possible.  What would help is keeping the ball and thus Murray off the field.

The loss of Orakpo is very unfortunate, especially as he was very skilled in run defense.  Trent Murphy will need to be very disciplined and focus in on the run game and do a good job containing the backside, because Murray can be pretty slippery (yeah, I just read that, but I'm not going to change it).  Keenan Robinson, fresh off NFC PoW honors, will need another huge game.  We can't afford to miss tackles on Murray or the Cowboy run game will shred us.  That means no Meriweather missiles.  They simply can't overlook Murray this week and they won't.  He is their offense right now.  Romo is still pretty good, Bryant is amazing, but everything they're doing begins and ends with Murray and that OL.

It'll be interesting to see the timeshare between Riley and Compton at the other ILB spot.  Both guys are pretty good against the run and that's what we'll need.  Witten is still a great TE, but he's slowed a little bit and Murray is definitely the priority.  We'll also need Ryan Clark in the game and as healthy as possible.

Interesting Facts

DeMarco was born and raised in Vegas.  In HS, he played football, basketball, and ran track.  He's always been a RB... and a great one at that, even back in HS.  He also happened to be a top-30 basketball recruit.  At Oklahoma, DeMarco tied Adrian Peterson's freshman TD record with 15.  He was also the fastest player on the OU football team and logged the fast 40 time with a 4.4.  He became the all-time leader in OU history for TD's.  He's also the all-time leader in all-purpose yards, receiving yards for a RB, and KO return yardage.  He was the all-time points leader when he left OU, as well.  It's interesting to note that he recently rewarded all the Cowboy OL with computers as a reward for their hard work in helping him to the record start he's had this year.  He's a Christian man and has his own website, DeMarcoMurray.com.

DeMarco Murray Gatorade Everything to Prove: Episode 16