The most underrated player on the Eagles led the NFL in rushing last season – by 484 yards.
Demarco Murray ran for 1,845 yards – 17thhighest total in league history. He scored 13 touchdowns. He finished third in MVP voting, and was named by colleagues as the NFL’s fourth-best player going into this season.
And yet, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that Murray is about to crumble into sawdust, that the wear-and-tear he sustained last year as feature back of the Dallas Cowboys has him on the precipice of devolving into Michael Haddix, owner of the worst yards-per-carry average in NFL history.
“DeMarco Murray is not the real deal,” brayed Skip Bayless, noted ESPN jackass and Cowboys shill. “Chip Kelly and the Eagles will soon discover how little he has left.”
“Consider this a disaster waiting to happen,” declared the fantasy football guide I bought the other day. “Every trend, every scouting report and every bit of logic screams that Murray’s owners (including the Eagles) will be heartbroken in 2015 after overpaying for him.”
Granted, that pessimism comes from one screaming ninny and one magazine touting an alternative version of football that doesn’t resemble reality. But it isn’t just them. Two of the brightest football minds in the area – my radio colleagues Ray Didinger and Reuben Frank – look at Murray’s workload and history of injuries, and forecast that 2015 will be a letdown season for the Eagles $42-million free agent.
I’ll respectfully disagree. Yes, I know the scary analytical trend. I’ve seen the graphs and charts showing that the decline that hits running backs coming off seasons of overuse like the one Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan subjected Murray to in 2014.
And I’ve heard the argument – usually in a twangy drawl – that it was Dallas’ line, not Murray’s talent, that carried him to his league-leading 2,261 total yards from scrimmage last year.
My God, it’s almost like the Eagles signed Darren McFadden for 2015. No, wait. That was the Cowboys.
Well, I’ve got more faith in DeMarco Murray. I’ve also got more faith than most in the Eagles offensive line – at least three-fifths of it.
Finally, I’ve got faith that Kelly, who understands both offense and sports science better than anyone, knows exactly what he got in Murray and has already figured out how to use him creatively and responsively.
Murray’s not going to get 392 carries for the Eagles this season. I’ll predict he getsbetween 250-275. Ryan Mathews, no slouch himself, will rush about 150 times. And Darren Sproles will add another 50 or so, along with more catches out of the backfield.
I can’t vouch for everything on this new version of the Eagles. I’ve got lots of questions. But I’m confident that the running game – led by DeMarco Murray – will be among the NFL’s elite. Remember these words when you watch the team’s most-underrated player slash through the Cowboys’ secondary on Sept. 20.