Dallas Cowboys

Garrett: Cowboys will continue handing ball off “a lot” to DeMarco Murray

Don’t expect the Dallas Cowboys to abandon DeMarco Murray any time soon.

Murray is on pace to tie the NFL record for most carries in a season and the Cowboys aren’t overly concerned about that. They’re focused on winning now and riding the hot hand is the best way to do it.

Murray is the hot hand, of course, with a league-leading 670 rushing yards on 130 carries. He is averaging 5.2 yards a carry, which is why he’s been the easy choice over backups Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar.

“DeMarco is having a fantastic year up to this point and he will be the bell cow of this team and we’ll continue to hand him the ball a lot in the game,” coach Jason Garrett said. “But those other guys are worthy of opportunity and we’ve given them opportunities. And they’ll continue to prepare each week and be ready to go come game time.”

Murray has said he’s willing to take on the heavy workload, too. He’s in a contract year and would love nothing more than to put up big numbers going into free agency. However, some teams might be skeptical if he can keep that kind of production going forward.

Most running backs in the NFL show a downward spiral after carrying the ball a significant amount during the season.

Over the past 10 seasons, only 12 running backs have had 350 or more carries in a season, led by Larry Johnson’s NFL record 416 in 2006 with the Chiefs.

Johnson, who was 27 when he took on that load, never had another 1,000-yard season after that.

Michael Turner had 376 carries for the Falcons in 2008 when he rushed for a career-high 1,699 yards. The following season, though, his carries were more than cut in half (178), although he did bounce back with consecutive 300-carry, 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011.

There are a couple more examples of running backs who were able to handle it.

Shaun Alexander had his first 300-plus carry season as a 26-year-old in 2003, beginning a string of three consecutive 300-carry, 1,000-yard seasons with the Seahawks. Clinton Portis did it in four of five seasons with the Redskins from 2004-08.

Going back a little more, Curtis Martin did the 300-carry, 1,000-yard duties six times over a seven-year stretch for the Jets from 1998-2004.

As far as Murray, the Cowboys are committed to keep handing him the ball. They feel he can handle the workload and it’s hard to argue with the results as the team is off to a 4-1 start.

“He’s a big, strong physical man,” Garrett said. “You see that in how he runs. You see him run down hill, you see him break tackles, you see him block guys. That part of him has never been an issue. He’s a man, he’s physical. He’s strong and you see that in all parts of his game.

“So certainly a durability question, it’s not really a durability question in regards to that. The biggest thing when you run the football you want to continue to run it with the bell cow and you also want to give other guys opportunities. So it’s a long season and trust me we have a lot of confidence in him and we’re going to continue to give him the football but the other guys are also worthy of an opportunity as well.”