No draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2011 has created more debate than DeMarco Murray. The running back from Oklahoma was somewhat of a surprise pick in the third-round, although earlier on that Friday I had a feeling they were going running back earlier than we thought. This was based on the rumored attempt to trade back into the first-round to get Mark Ingram. That, combined with the fact they chose Murray in the third-round, leads one to believe the Cowboys are not entirely happy with the duo of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.
So that brings up one of the great debates about Murray, could he supplant both players and take over the lead back role, the so-called feature back? Or is he going to fill a specialized role in a running-back-by-committee approach? Initially, I thought he may be the third-down back, a guy who could get the short-yardage, get out in the passing game, and provide reasonable protection for Tony Romo. But as I read more about Murray, it's obvious he did a lot more than that in Oklahoma. After all, he broke a lot of Adrian Peterson's records at the school. So we're already seeing talk of Murray becoming more than a role-player.
Much more below...
Many scouts saw Murray as strictly a third-down back, but at 6-0, 213, he plans to get bigger and stronger -- something Jones tried to do last year -- to handle an expanded load.
"I plan to gain a little weight and play with a lower pad level," Murray said. "I definitely want to be at least 220 by the start of the season."
It's likely though, he will be the short-yardage guy.
"I definitely feel that I can get the tough yardage when necessary," said Murray, whose presence gives Dallas officials the option of releasing Barber.
The guy that should really be concerned is Tashard Choice. It's interesting that Choice has excelled when given the lead role in short durations, but apparently he hasn't satisfied the Cowboys coaching staff. His reluctance/failure to shine on special teams could also be part of the problem.
Back to Murray, if he is slated for a large role in the Cowboys offense, it brings us back to the second hotly debated topic. Murray's injury history. I was blasted in an email by a reader for bringing the topic up, the implication being that I didn't know Murray or OU football. This is mostly true, so I plead guilty to that charge. But, everywhere I go, his injury history is brought up. So let's put it on the table.
The issue with Murray, while at OU, has been the injury bug. Murray redshirted his first year at Oklahoma because of a toe injury.
He tied Adrian Peterson's freshman record of 15 touchdowns in 2007, but suffered the dislocated kneecap while trying to recover an onside kick at Texas Tech.
Surgery wiped out workouts the following spring.
He was a 1,000-yard rusher as a third-year sophomore, then went down with the hamstring tear on the opening kickoff of the Big 12 championship game.
Another spring, more surgery.
He was a scratch the last time OU reached the National Championship game at the end of the 2008 season, suffering a torn hamstring tendon.
I asked the guys over at Crimson And Cream Machine, SB Nation's OU blog, about his injury history. They had this to say:
One of the "knocks" against Murray has been injury. He sat out a redshirt freshman year due to a toe injury and then also missed games over the next three years because of injury. Coming into his senior year Murray admitted to not being as committed to off season training and even pre-game stretching as much as he should have been. He took up yoga and even UFC style mixed martial arts training during the offseason prior to the 2011 season. The results were almost immediately noticeable as he carried the ball 282 times and caught 71 passes. Both of these were career highs for Murray for season marks but most notably it was all done without injury.
So it appears that Murray was aware of some training deficiencies and set out to correct them. The other issue with Murray is he runs with a high pad level. This is one of the major no-no's for most backs (Eric Dickerson excepted) precisely because it can lead to injury. Murray seems to be aware of this, too, as the quote shows earlier in this article.
"I plan to gain a little weight and play with a lower pad level," Murray said.
So, what's the community's thoughts? Is Murray going to be in a bigger role than just specialty back? And is his supposed injury history a problem?