For Eagles, DeMarco Murray is Dallas' top threat

uspresswire-demarco-murray-dallas-cowboys-122813.jpg

For Eagles, DeMarco Murray is Dallas' top threat

They don’t have Tony Romo to worry about, but the Eagles have spent the entire week preparing for another weapon in the Dallas offense whose status was never in doubt.

Not only is Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray healthy, but he’s also the single biggest threat to the Eagles’ pursuit of an NFC East title.

If you haven’t noticed, Murray has emerged as one of the NFL’s more impactful ball carriers. In his third season, the former Oklahoma record-setting running back has cracked the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time.

His 1,073 yards rank 10th in the league, but his average of 82.5 rushing yards per game ranks fourth. His 1,384 total offensive yards are eighth-most among NFL running backs.

Murray isn’t often mentioned in the same breath as LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch, but over the past few weeks, only McCoy has more rushing yards than Murray, an impressive feather in Murray’s cap given McCoy’s 217-yard effort a few weeks ago against the Lions in the snow and his 133-yard performance against Chicago.

McCoy’s 388 rushing yards in that span lead the NFL, but just 12 more than Murray.

“He’s a powerful back,” defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. “He can break tackles. Once he gets to the edge on stretch plays, he can take it to the house. The main thing is, we have to make sure we set the edge and don’t allow him to get started. Once he gets started it’s pretty hard to stop him.”

An MCL injury kept Murray from playing against the Eagles earlier this year, a 17-3 Dallas win at the Linc, but the Eagles figure on seeing heavy doses of him Sunday as the two teams battle to decide the NFC East title at AT&T Stadium.

Without the services Romo and with an NFL-worst defense that has to figure out how to stop Chip Kelly’s offense, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett might elect to put the ball in Murray's hands frequently in an attempt to execute a clock-control game plan.

If that’s the plan, Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said he’s ready for it.

“We were anticipating them to do that anyway,” Davis said. “But they might do more. Only they can answer that question. We've got to prepare equally for the run game and the pass game. Each game takes on its own life. Whether they gave him the ball more or not, we'll be prepared to it.”

A third-round pick in 2011, Murray has always been a game-breaking halfback with plus speed and breakaway ability. He ran a 4.41 at the Scouting Combine. Injuries were always his Achilles heel. He suffered various injuries in college, but still set the school’s record for touchdowns and all-purpose yards.

He played 13 games his rookie season in Dallas, sharing carries with Felix Jones, but fractured his ankle in late December. The Cowboys made him their No.1 halfback last year, but he missed six games.

This year, after a brief MCL scare that ended up being just a two-game absence, Murray has finally shown his potential. He busted loose for 175 yards in Week 3 against the Rams. Since Nov. 10, he’s had just one game under 65 rushing yards. Murray’s 5.4 yards-per-carry average is the league’s highest among running backs with at least 110 carries.

The Cowboys are 11-0 when Murray carries the ball at least 20 times, 12-2 when he gets at least 18 carries. When he rushes for just one touchdown, Dallas is hard to beat. The Cowboys are 10-3 in games when Murray finds the end zone.

“We’ve got to stop the run. That’s the No. 1 thing,” outside linebacker Brandon Graham said. “We didn’t see him in the first meeting. He’s very good. He’s somebody we’ve got to attack early. We can’t get him going at all, because he can beat us.

“He’s patient, somebody who waits on the hole to open up. He’s s a 4.4 (speed) guy and you know you don’t want to get him out there in space. He’s somebody you don’t wanna play with.”

Murray has brought some stability to Dallas' offense down the stretch, with 136 yards against Chicago and 134 more against the Packers in consecutive December games, both Cowboys losses in which the play calling drew criticism for ignoring Murray down the stretch.

Last Sunday, Murray rescued Dallas’ season in the final moments of the fourth when he caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Romo on 4th-and-goal that propelled Dallas to the 24-23 comeback win that set the stage for Sunday’s winner-take-all showdown against the Eagles.

Murray’s 48 receptions yards are seventh-most among starting running backs, giving the Eagles another dimension to guard against.

“We just have to make sure we get all 11 hats to the ball,” Logan said, “and just just slow him down from the beginning of the game. We don’t want to give him any momentum going into the second half.”

NFL Notes: J.J. Watt could miss rest of season with back injury

NFL Notes: J.J. Watt could miss rest of season with back injury

HOUSTON -- A person familiar with J.J. Watt's condition says he has re-injured his back and the Houston Texans expect him to be out until at least December, and possibly the entire season.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity because the team hasn't confirmed the injury.

Watt missed training camp and Houston's four preseason games after surgery in July to repair a herniated disk in his back. He returned started each of the team's three regular-season games and got hurt again Thursday against the Patriots.

It's unclear if the injury will require surgery.

Watt, who has won Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, didn't practice on Monday, but coach Bill O'Brien said then he was just getting a day off.

NFL.com first reported the news (see full story).
 
Panthers: Team signs S Griffin, DT Love
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Panthers have signed safety Michael Griffin and defensive tackle Kyle Love to one-year contracts.

To make room on the roster, the Panthers waived safety Marcus Ball and placed defensive end Ryan Delaire on injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury.

A former first-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, the 6-foot, 215-pound Griffin was named to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2010. He spent nine seasons with Tennessee before signing with Minnesota. However, he was waived by the Vikings on Sept. 7.

Griffin has played in 141 career regular season games with 133 starts, registering 607 tackles, seven sacks, 25 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.

Love played in 15 regular season games with two starts and registered 19 tackles, including three sacks last season for Carolina.

NFL: Three legislature seats filled for possible Vegas stadium vote
RENO, Nev. -- Three people whose votes could determine whether a nearly $2 billion stadium is built to lure the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas were appointed Tuesday to vacant seats in the Nevada Legislature.

The three northern Nevada residents, including a former Stanford football player, will join other state lawmakers for a special session the governor is expected to convene next month to consider raising hotel room taxes in the Las Vegas area to help finance a 65,000-seat, domed stadium that could be home to the NFL team.

The current informal proposal on the table would tax only hotel guests in Las Vegas and Clark County, with no direct impact on Washoe County, Reno or Sparks. But critics fear that in the event of revenue shortfalls, the burden could fall to all Clark County taxpayers or, potentially, taxpayers statewide

"I am a fan and support football as a sport," said ex-Stanford linebacker Dominic Brunetti, a Republican commercial real estate broker.

"And as a business, I respect the NFL," he said. "But only if it is fair to those communities and families it influences and impacts through oftentimes very, very complicated deal structures."

2017 NFL draft prospect watch: Offensive help for Eagles

2017 NFL draft prospect watch: Offensive help for Eagles

It almost seems futile to do a prospect watch piece after the Eagles moved to 3-0 by demolishing a Super Bowl contender.

I know you've all bought your tickets to Houston already, but even after the Eagles win the Super Bowl this year, they'll still need to draft a player or two come April.

Here's a look at six offensive prospects that could help the Eagles defend their title:

Dalvin Cook, Florida State, junior, RB, (5-11/213)
Cook finally had a breakout game this weekend with 267 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns in Florida State's 55-35 win over South Florida. Defenses have really been keying in on Cook with a redshirt freshman quarterback under center for the Seminoles. Besides LSU's Leonard Fournette, Cook may be the best running back prospect in the draft.

Jalen Hurd, Tennessee, junior, RB, (6-4/240)
Hurd had a solid weekend, running for 95 yards on 26 carries in Tennessee's first win over Florida in 12 years. Hurd is by far the tallest running back I've ever profiled. He's built like a wide receiver. Considering his size, he does a good job of not running high and he's quicker than his size would lead you to believe. He's able to turn the corner and he's tough to tackle low. He's a physical runner but it doesn't translate well into his pass protection.

Roderick Johnson, Florida State, junior, OT, (6-7/311)
Johnson was a disaster in the first half of Florida State's opener against Ole Miss, but he's recovered nicely. He's excellent in the run game, helping pave the way for Cook's huge game against USF. His struggles in pass protection are from technical issues. He needs to get his hands on opponents quicker. When he does that, he can swallow defensive lineman with his massive frame and long arms.

Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame, senior, OT, (6-7/310)
The Philly native and Penn Charter grad is one of the top three tackles in the draft. A former basketball player, McGlinchey — who people say is closer to 6-foot-9 — moves like a tight end. He dominated in Notre Dame's loss to Duke. Against Michigan State, he got fooled on a couple stunts, but looked strong overall. How cool of a story would it be for a Philly kid to get drafted by the Eagles in Philadelphia? That scenario is far from impossible. Fun fact: McGlinchey is the cousin of Atlanta Falcons quarterback and fellow Penn Charter grad Matt Ryan.

James Washington, Oklahoma State, junior, WR, (6-1/201)
Washington had six catches for 89 yards in a loss to Baylor, but he popped up on my radar after a nine-catch, 296-yard (no, that's not a typo) performance against Pitt a couple weeks back. The opposite of Hurd, Washington is a receiver built like a running back, generously listed at 6-foot-1. He's explosive and quick out of his breaks. He also does well on 50-50 balls, outmuscling smaller defensive backs. I'd like to see a little more consistency from him, though. His 40 time will be an interesting measuring stick when the combine comes around.

James Quick, Louisville, senior, WR, (6-1/180)
Against Marshall last weekend, Quick caught his second pass of over 70 yards this season and finished with four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. When your quarterback is the best and most exciting player in college football, it's easy to get overshadowed. But Quick has been the favorite target of Heisman hopeful Lamar Jackson, leading Louisville in catches (16), yards (360) and receiving touchdowns (three). He's quick in and out of his breaks and is a decent route runner with decent hands. Quick is another player we'll learn more about through the combine process when he's not catching balls from Jackson.

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!