It should have been sweet music to the ears of running back DeMarco Murray when Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones opened training camp saying that not only will the Cowboys run the ball more this season, but also that he wanted a top-10 ground game.
But Murray has heard those proclamations before. The reality of being part of the worst rushing attack in team history in terms of yards and attempts two years ago and the league’s 24th rank rushing attack last season makes all of it a bunch of noise to Murray.
“I think you can say that,” Murray said. “But you’ve got to do it. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but you’ve got to do it. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Murray, 26, would like to see more carries. What back wouldn’t, especially in a contract year?
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But he knows the Cowboys have traditionally been a pass-happy offense.
They were 31st in the league in rushing attempts last season and have averaged 22.8 attempts a game in Murray’s three seasons with the Cowboys.
“We know what’s been said, that we’re going to do a lot of that [run] this year, so we’re excited,” Murray said. “We’ll see at the end of the year.”
Murray and the Cowboys are hoping to build on what proved to be a successful formula late last season when they leaned on the running game.
Murray had the third-most rushing yards in the league over the final eight games en route to a 1,121-yard season. He became the team’s first runner to top 1,000 yards since 2006 and was named to his first Pro Bowl.
Jones said that late season success combined with the fact that the Cowboys are 11-0 all-time when Murray carries the ball 20 times should be the team’s formula for success this season.
New play-caller Scott Linehan said the Cowboys are in the process of forming their identity on the practice field at training camp. But he said committing to the run is a huge point of emphasis because of Murray and the team’s massive offensive line.
“That is something we want to really work on,” Linehan said. “There are a lot of reasons people do what they do in the past. But that is most insignificant to us right now. We are formulating our mindset to what we want to do this year. Our goal is to achieve that.
“We have a great young front. [Murray] had a great year last year. He kind of stepped into that role of being a guy who could consistently give you the production you need out of the starting tailback week in and week out. I’d love to see what he can do this year.”
That’s certainly the Cowboys’ attitude when it comes to a new contract for Murray, who is in the final year of his rookie deal.
Jones said they were just going to let things play out and there will be no talks with Murray and his agent about a new contract until after the season.
Murray, in his fourth year out of Oklahoma, would have it no other way. He rushed for 693 yards and six touchdowns over the final eight games last season and plans to build on that success to a new contract.
“It’s not a big deal at all,” Murray said. “You get what you put in and that’s what I plan on doing. I plan on having a good team year. I plan on having a good individual year as well.”
He knows if the Cowboys finally live up to their promises of committing to the running game, a long-term commitment to him will be forthcoming.
By the numbers
11-0Cowboys record when DeMarco Murray gets 20-plus carries.
5.2Yards per carry for DeMarco Murray in 2013, fourth-highest in the NFL among qualified players.
11Games missed out of a possible 48 games in DeMarco Murray’s career.