Well, Demarco Murray certainly has been an interesting emergence. A 3rd Round Running back is one of the best rushers in the NFL, at this point, only having started really rushing in the St. Louis game. I think we can all agree, in some form or fashion, the emergence of Demarco Murray has helped this team. However, I have a strong sense of consternation about a couple of things surrounding DeMarco Murray, as well as the role of Felix Jones on this team.
In this week's post of What to Do with Felix Jones, we need to have a serious discussion about Murray, Jones, and the running game situation in general.
Mood Music: Running Free by Iron Maiden
Using Jones the Wrong Way:
I think it's safe to say that many people have concluded in some form or fashion that Jones is done as the primary running back, and may even be considered a bust at this point. I don't disagree with the notion, rather, I think that if you believe Jones' place in this offense is somehow gone because of Murray you are discounting a rather large notion. Felix Jones is a Change of Pace, Scat Back.
Now many ask how Jones can be a COP Back when Murray is the same type of back as Jones. Well first of all, we should probably compare combine statistics on these two.
|Felix Jones||Demarco Murray|
|Height||5 – 10||5 – 11|
|40 Yrd Dash||4.44||4.37|
|20 Yrd Dash||2.59||2.53|
|10 Yrd Dash||1.46||1.52|
|225 Lb. Bench Reps||13||21|
|Vertical Jump||33 ½||34 ½|
|20 Yrd Shuttle||4.19||4.18|
So yes, in case you were wondering Murray is a stronger and slightly faster runner than Jones. Yes, Murray has had more success running the ball in the past few weeks than Jones has had in a while, but this is not what I'm concerned with.
See I mentioned in my film review last week that one of my favorite things about a Running Back with good ability is what he does with checkdowns and screens. Well what if we look at comparing stats between Jones and Murray when it comes to receptions:
|Career||Felix Jones||Demarco Murray|
|Avg||8.2 yds/rec||6.9 yds/rec|
As you can see Jones is clearly a better receiver, at this point in their careers, than Murray is. Even if you object to my use of career statistics, on the season alone Jones is catching passes at a 7.5 yard/reception clip.
I am an off and on fan of Pittsburgh football. A lot of you may be a familiar with a certain phenom that came out of Pittsburgh a few years ago, LeSean McCoy (By the way I love this guy and will always hate Philadelphia for getting him).
Well the heir apparent to McCoy's thrown was a small shifty running back by the name of Dion Lewis. His first year, he was absolutely amazing. He gained 1800 yards at 5.5 yards a clip, and was looking like the next big thing for Pittsburgh. Except, the next year that production dropped by 800 yards. He was even benched at one point in the season for his "horrible play." Well what was the difference between year 1 and 2? Most of his runs in year 1 were off tackle, tosses, and sweeps. Essentially they were East West plays that allowed him to get separation from Linebackers and D-Linemen and get favorable match-ups.
In the second year Pittsburgh decided he would be a more versatile runner if they had him running up the middle, and while he still had an alright season, 1000 yards, he wasn't the explosive runner he used to be.
What I'm trying to say is this: When you have a shifty smaller fast back with great acceleration who can't seem to hold up for an entire season, and isn't getting the yardage you want him to don't keep running him up the center. Instead use him how he was drafted for, put him on outside plays; make him a threat for the passing game. Line him up in 2 RB sets. There are ways of using a complementary Running Back effectively. Making him your feature back is not one of them.
Here's a question: How many of you were scared when Murray went down right before half-time? Why were we running Murray right before half-time when we were just going to run out the clock anyway? Isn't that what a back-up is for? We don't want to only have to rely on Tanner because Murray and Jones are both injured.
I'm also skeptical that DeMarco Murray is going to keep up his pace on the season. He's going to slow down eventually, even Adrian Peterson has multiple under 100 yards a game a season. This is not at all a slight at Murray, just don't be upset when he has a 40 yard rushing game, some defenses are just really good like that.
This leads back to another point, Running Backs catching out of the backfield is as beneficial, if not more beneficial, to an offense as running between the tackles. I'll probably repeat this mantra until you all get sick of it: You need to be able to get significant yardage on Checkdowns to be successful.