Statistically speaking, the rushing offense was our worst area last year. Second to last in the league. Most of the initial reaction points to Demarco Murray missing 6 games. But is that the reason we struggled so badly on the ground?
A blind man would agree with the eyeball test proving that Murray is head and shoulders above the other running backs on our roster, but how far would a healthy Murray have pulled our running game from the depths of the league? Well, he averaged 4.1 yards per carry and 66.3 yards per game, which amounts to 1,060 yards when projected over a full 16 games, had he stayed healthy. If we look at the games Felix Jones started instead of Murray (Weeks 7-12), Felix averaged 38.3 yards per game during that span. Had Murray been in those games, with his 66.3 average, we can roughly assume about 168 more rushing yards using both players' averages, which would move our rank of 31st in yards per game, to a still less than stellar 28th. With a little wiggle room, that's the most reasonable expectation. 28th instead of 31st, with a healthy Murray, all else equal. Maybe there's an argument for pass catching ability, defenses accounting for him, Murray/Felix instead of Felix/Dunbar, etc., but how far does that get you? 25 spots up the rankings? Doubtful. The most reasonable expectation would be a slight increase, but still bottom half and most likely bottom 1/4 of the league. But where does reasonable fit in with offseason chatter? Allow us to take some liberties.
To put us in the top half of the league, Murray would've had to come up with an additional 573 yards than what we got with Felix Jones during those six games. Not total, in addition to. That means a total of 802 yards in those 6 games. 133 per game. Almost exactly twice his average from the 10 games he did play. Murray would've had to double his production for all 6 of those games, just to get us to rank 15th in the league in rushing. If we're thinking this team would be a top 5 rushing offense with Murray on the field, he would've had to collect 1,359 yards in those six games, an average of 226.5 per game. 3.5 times his yards per game, from the 10 he played in. I like Demarco and everything, but even expecting him to play twice as well as he did for those 6 games is unreasonable. 3.5 times is insanity.
And if you're inclined to believe Murray was slowed by injuries even when he did play, you'd be wrong by half a yard. His average rushing yards per game before his injury was 66, and it was 66.5 after he came back.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not here to discredit Demarco Murray. I think he's one of the most talented in the league. But to think all of our running problems would've been solved had Murray stayed healthy all year, would be incorrect, barring a perfectly timed, out of this world increase in production during that exact 6 game stretch that he missed.