DeMarco Murray set a Cowboys franchise rushing record in 2014 when he ran for 1,845 yards. He went on to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles the following year where he only rushed for 702 yards with a career low average of 3.6 yards per carry. Based on those two contrasting seasons, it seemed like the “was it Murray or was it the Cowboys offensive line” dilemma was finally answered. Last year, he signed with the Tennessee Titans and his career got back on track, rushing for 1,287 yards. Murray is a good running back, but why such a roller coaster performance from year to year?
Well, the answer again lies within the men up front blocking for him. In Dallas, he had a great offensive line leading the way and it appears that he’s running behind another group that is pretty darn good as well. Recently, Murray went on record by saying...
“I would put our line up against anyone”
Is that a subtle little dig towards his former team? No. Murray has a great deal of respect for the guys who opened up the lanes for him in Dallas. Maybe it’s Murray being a great teammate to his new squad as comments of that nature aren’t that uncommon. Or maybe he’s saying it because he genuinely believes it. Let’s face it, he’s not just blowing smoke - the Titans offensive line is legit.
The Titans have invested mightily in their tackles in recent drafts, selecting Taylor Lewan (11th overall) and Jack Conklin (8th overall) in the first rounds of 2014 and 2016 respectively. They are definitely getting a good return on their investments. But they are also getting great value from the guards who were both undrafted free agents. Indeed, the Titans have a good offensive line, but are they better than Dallas?
The Cowboys group has some standout players of their own.
An updated look at the Cowboys' offensive line after the recent news about La'el Collins and Jonathan Cooper. pic.twitter.com/55D9lioZs1— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 8, 2017
Travis Frederick grade = 90.4
Zack Martin grade = 88.3
Tyron Smith grade = 85.9
We all know about the big three, but what about the other two players filling the spots left by the departure of Ron Leary and Doug Free? In 2015, the Cowboys acquired both Chaz Green and La’el Collins to be future starters in Dallas. Well, the future is now. Both players have a great opportunity to step in and fill the open vacancies on the offensive line, however it might not be at the positions we originally thought. Collins looks to be the team’s new right tackle whereas Green is trying to make the transition to inside.
The Cowboys will tinker with different scenarios as they look for the best combination. Players like Jonathan Cooper, Byron Bell, Joe Looney, and Emmitt Cleary are all competing for a role on the team so you have to feel good about the squad having some decent options.
The Titans group scored a total grade of 425 when you add up all five offensive linemen. The big three of Dallas scored 264.6 so that means the remaining two players would have to have an average score of 80.2 to match Murray’s new front line. Those are solid scores, but they aren’t undo-able. Murray led the AFC in rushing last year, but the Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott who led the entire league in rushing. Zeke ran for 344 more yards than Murray despite playing in one less game. The presence of a talent like Elliott maxes out the ability of the Cowboys line so it’s still not fair to make any direct comparisons.
Props to Murray and his new line. It’s much more fun to watch him run behind those guys than those dreadful green jersey-wearing people in Philadelphia. And he’s certainly got a leg to stand on suggesting they are as good of a unit as anyone in the league...even Dallas. But time will tell if they have enough to jump the Cowboys as the best offensive line in football.