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Cowboys News & Notes: How Much Are Cowboys Missing DeMarco Murray?

Latest Cowboys news: Cowboys need to focus on team's identity during bye week; Jerry Jones hopes Matt Cassel will take more chances than Brandon Weeden did; With return of Randy Gregory, defense will be able to compete going forward.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys seek answers in backfield - Shuyler Dixon, The Shreveport Times
The Cowboys rank just 19th in the NFL in rushing after finishing second last season. DeMarco Murray has just 130 rushing yards in four games in Philly after leading the league and setting a franchise record with 1,845 rushing yards last year. Would things have been better had the Cowboys kept Murray? I'm not sure.

"By the end of last year, we were focusing on other things," center Travis Frederick said. "And now we’re back and we’re trying to re-hone everything back into where we were. It’s kind of just been a shift. I don’t know what to attribute it to. But I don’t think it’s any particular thing. I think it’s just collective."

"I don’t think we panic," 13th-year tight end Jason Witten said. "We stick with it. As you saw last year, we have been at our best and it was our identity of sticking with it. The difference between those runs being good runs and great runs is sometimes the extra block. It’s the line, it’s the tight ends, it’s the receivers, it’s everybody."

But it’s not the missing Murray, the Cowboys say.

"I think anytime you have a great player like that, you miss him," Brown said. "But I think we have enough guys here that can make up for those yards."

Moore: Five significant issues Cowboys need to focus team's identity during bye week - David Moore, SportsDay
According to Moore, one of the five things the Cowboys need to focus on during the bye week is is getting their ground game back on track.

Last season's Cowboys were a physical bunch who imposed their will in the running game. That's not the case so far in 2015.

The Cowboys can do one of two things at this point: admit they no longer have a dominant ground game and open up the offense, or double down in their efforts to reclaim last's year identity.

Garrett has doubled down. Rookie La'el Collins has replaced veteran Ron Leary at left guard. Coach Jason Garrett declared that Christine Michael, the closest thing on the current roster to a DeMarco Lite, will have a role in the team's running back-by-committee approach.

Jerry Jones: I'm not disappointed in Joseph Randle or our running game - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Jerry believes the biggest issue with the running game is that defenses are selling out to stop the run.

"Well, he's not on my list of disappointments," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of Randle Friday on 105.3 The Fan's G-Bag Nation show [KRLD-FM]. "He specifically is not, nor is the running game. I know what a challenge we've had in that running game by not backing them off of us and letting them crowd that line of scrimmage. And had we dealt with the same dynamic last year, we wouldn't have had the running game we had last year. There's no doubt in my mind about that. And these running games or these offenses are fragile in the sense of their balance. And you can dominate it every now and then with a real, powerful, talented, effective either running game or passing game without having balance, but not very often."

Scott Linehan's logic is making it easier to defend Cowboys - Bob Sturm, Dallas Morning News
In a chat with fans, Sturm pointed out that the Cowboys stubborn insistence on running the ball on first down makes them predictable.

Any thoughts or explanation for why Linehan's offense seemed allergic to throwing on first down or running on third down vs. New England?

Sturm: I think they fell in love with the idea that they could declare their intentions last year and nobody could slow them down. They probably thought that could be the plan for the indefinite future, too. This year things changed quickly and he is stuck in tendencies. I think calling a game is much more difficult than any of us could ever imagine and passing on 1st down probably feels like the thing that precedes 2nd and 10 with a backup QB. So, I understand his logic. I just think that logic is making the defenses job too easy.

Dallas Cowboys: Two Ways Christine Michael's Week 7 Could Go - Jeff Smith, Pro Football Spot
Smith suggests that Michael will either seize his opportunity and the Cowboys will ride the hot hand, or Randle comes out fighting for his job and delivers more than he's done so far. Either way, it's a win-win for the Cowboys.

This one has the makings of a 50-50 split, but Michael also has the skill and possible "wow" factor to take over the starting gig. I'd say it's more likely to see Michael take over the job than for Randle to push Michael back to the bench. No one knows exactly what to expect from Michael, as he's rushed just two times for five yards this season. Even with that being said, if Michael's presence and running ability does anything to help Dallas generate offense, Garrett's decision may wind up being made for him in a huge Week 7 game against the New York Giants.

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Jury remains out on Philadelphia Eagles running back DeMarco Murray - Gordie Jones, PennLive.com
Murray had an okay game last week, with 20 carries for 83 yards, but questions remaoin about his fit in Philly.

He has just 130 yards on 49 carries through five games (three of them Philadelphia defeats), a paltry per-carry average of 2.7 yards. That is exactly two yards fewer per attempt than a year ago, when Murray rushed for an NFL-best 1,845 yards for Dallas.

That said, the Eagles are wedded to Murray. They simply have too much invested in him – a reported $40 million over five years, with at least $18 million of that guaranteed, according to overthecap.com – to relegate him to a supporting role. He will continue to get the bulk of the work, come what may.

All-22: DeMarco Murray continues to leave meat on the bone - Andrew Kulp, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
Kulp writes that Murray still isn't seeing the field as well as he could.

So while everybody thought it was a big joke that Randle would have the audacity to accuse the reigning NFL rushing champion of leaving plays on the field, it appears there may be some truth to that. At least, that’s been the case with the Eagles thus far.

Murray is leaving meat on the bone.

Murray ran 20 times for 83 yards against the New Orleans Saints in Week 5, easily his best game as an Eagle. Of course, Mathews carried eight times for 73 yards against the same defense. The “backup” was more than twice as productive.

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Jerry Jones: Weeden was too conservative, Cassel will take chances - Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com
Brandon Weeden wasn't terrible as Tony Romo's backup, he was just incapable of sparking the offense, Wilson writes. Now the hope is that Matt Cassel can jump-start the Cowboys' suddenly stagnant offense.

"I think [Cassel's] also got experience in basically just stepping up in the pocket and making some plays," Jones told CBS Sports Radio's 105.3 The Fan. "Now, he will, with that experience though, do something that Weeden was not doing. Weeden was so conservative, he was coached to be conservative to a degree, but he was not taking chances with that ball. Now, we know you can't make plays if you don't take some chances. So, we'll see more of that. We could see the risk of that hit us a little bit, but hopefully we'll be getting our share of them over on the defense with this group we've got."

Also worth remembering: Cassel doesn't magically fix things; there's a reason the Vikings traded him to the Bills in the offseason, and there's a reason the Bills did the same last month. Both teams had younger, better (and mostly unproven) options in Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor.

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What to expect from Randy Gregory if he returns after Cowboys bye week - Rick Gosselin, SportsDay
It doesn't happen often, but when it does, we notice: Gosselin had something positive to say about the Cowboys in a chat with fans.

Assuming Randy Gregory does in fact return after the bye week, how good can this pass rush be?

Gosselin: "In training camp, when everyone was healthy, I thought this had the potential to be a 44-45-sack pass rush. Gregory's speed would have made everyone better and Greg Hardy's flexibility or being able to line up anywhere up front would have given Rod Marinelli favorable passing-down matchups. You saw the impact of Hardy last weekend. Add Gregory to that mix and this could still be a special pass rush this season. But the window isn't open too wide -- not with Hardy free to walk in free agency at the end of the year."

"This defense will be able to compete going forward. Greg Hardy was a huge addition and so will Gregory when he's healthy. They'll be able to get to the quarterback -- and good things happen for defenses who can apply that pressure. I would expect the Cowboys to play lower-scoring games going forward. But the question remains can this offense score enough to compete and win those games?"

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Dallas Cowboys 2016 Draft Pick Picture Comes Into Focus With Greg Hardy's Return - KD DRummond, Cowboys HQ
The noble Drummond offers a look at what the Cowboys' haul of compensatory draft picks for 2016 currently looks like, and suggests that the Cowboys are still on track for their anticipated four comp picks, one in the fourth round and three in the sixth round.

Here's what the 2016 pick tally could look like.

Round Original Team Current Team
1 Cowboys - -
2 Cowboys - -
3 Cowboys - -
4 Cowboys - -
4 Compensatory - -
6 Oakland Cowboys
6 Compensatory - -
6 Compensatory - -
6 Compensatory - -

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Forbes ranks the five most underpaid Dallas Cowboys - Jack Cassidy, Dallas Sun Times
According to Forbes, these five Dallas Cowboys deserve far more than their current salaries: Jason Witten Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Sean Lee, Joseph Randle. Interestingly, only Williams and Randle are still on their rookie contracts.

Pokes in The Pro's: A look back at Week Five In the NFL - okbroncos, Cowboys Ride For Free
The Oklahoma State SB Nation blog is watching Dallas with a wary eye as things appear to be going south for three former Oklahoma State Cowboys. Tyler Patmon didn't play at all last week, Brandon Weeden has been benched, and Joseph Randle could lose his starting spot.

So Oklahoma State could see both of its Cowboys yanked from the starting lineup. Although, I would expect Randle to remain in the mix for a significant amount of work even if he comes off the bench. The bye week has brought on a lot of change for the Cowboys.

NFL's clegg hammer impact tester - Brain Jackson, News4Jax.com
You've probably never heard of a such a device, but a Clegg Gmax 2.25-kilogram hammer is an important part of getting the field ready for NFL games.

The instrument is used to determine the hardness of the playing surface prior to the start of each game. The hammer is dropped from a predetermined height to measure how quickly weight stops upon impact. According to NFL rules the reading must produce a score under 100 before a game can be played.

I wonder how that thing works in Green Bay or Buffalo in December.