Throughout the week, I’ve been detailing ways I think the Cowboys can improve their offensive attack. These have included target Jason Witten less and Dez Bryant more (particularly deep), bench Doug Free, and start Phil Costa at right guard. To wrap up this little segment, I’ll provide a few reasons why I think the Cowboys should lean fairly heavily on running back DeMarco Murray over rookie Joseph Randle this year.
No one really debates Murray’s skill. He’s averaged 4.8 YPC during his two-year career and over a full yard more per rush than the other running backs in Dallas. That’s pretty substantial. The main qualm with Murray is that most believe him to be unusually susceptible to injuries. I have a couple problems with this idea.
The first is that we don’t really know if Murray is injury prone. Even if injuries were completely random, we’d still see lots of players have way more injuries than normal and lots of players not get injured at all. Actually, the distribution would closely resemble what we already see now. At the very least, injuries are far more random than most people believe.
And even if Murray is indeed injury prone, we still wouldn’t be able to tell for sure at this point. Injuries are such a low-frequency event that we need many occurrences before we can conclusively determine whether or not a player is more susceptible to injuries than others; basically, we don’t know if Murray is injury prone or has just been unlucky.
Perhaps more important, I don’t think Murray’s potential injury proneness should affect his usage. It’s fine if the Cowboys want to limit his carries so he doesn’t wear down at the end of games, but that’s something they should do for any back.
On top of that, Murray is a far more talented player than Randle. Let’s take a look at the numbers:
Murray: 6-0, 215 pounds, 4.41 40-yard dash
Randle: 6-0, 204 pounds, 4.63 40-yard dash
Randle is a much leaner, slower back. That’s not good. Both have an upright running style, so if we’re going to label that as the cause of Murray’s injury woes, what does that say about the lighter Randle?
When it comes down to it, Murray should be the feature back in the Cowboys’ offense, racking up around 70 percent of the total touches. Randle can spell him, perhaps on third down and in short-yardage situations, but the Cowboys are best off with Murray leading the way in 2013.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.