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Running Back DeMarco Murray Settling in with Tennessee Titans

December 4, 2016 • Ben Heck • AFC, AFC South, Features, Front Page, Houston Texans

DeMarco Murray, 28, saw a record-shattering 2014 campaign with the Dallas Cowboys, leading the league in rushing attempts (392), rushing yards (1,845) and rushing touchdowns (13), while averaging 4.7 yards per carry for Jason Garrett’s ‘Boys.

Murray broke Jim Brown’s 1958 NFL record for most 100-yard rushing games to start a season (eight straight), and his 1,845 yards was enough to break Emmitt Smith’s single-season franchise record. He even broke his hand in Week 15, but still didn’t miss any time. It was an impressive season, and the best from a running back in Dallas’ franchise history despite Emmitt Smith turning in a historic career with the team during his day.

Once the 2014 season was complete, Murray signed a five-year, $42 million contract with the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles.

With a crowded backfield in Philly, Murray saw just 193 carries in 15 games (only eight of which were starts). The running back got a little disgruntled over his role with the team, and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry. His 702 rushing yards and six touchdowns were unimpressive considering what Philadelphia was paying him.

The early-season struggles in 2015 even had people starting to wonder if his 2014 season was merely a result of running behind the league’s best offensive line. Is Murray even a talented runner, or did he simply reap the benefits of Dallas’ O-line?

In the first three games of the season, Murray managed just 47 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries. Philadelphia went 0-3 in those games, so obviously there was plenty of panic spread throughout the city whenever talk about Murray’s contract came up.

Murray finished 2015 with just one 100-yard rushing game and added another three games with less than 10 rushing yards. It was an uninspiring season, which led to Philly trading Murray to Tennessee (along with Philly’s 2016 fourth-round pick) in exchange for Tennessee’s fourth-round pick.

Turns out it was a fantastic move for the Titans, as Murray has found a home in Tennessee so far this season.

In fact, Murray has teamed up with young gunslinger Marcus Mariota to form a solid one-two punch in the AFC South.

Mariota, 23, is having himself a great sophomore season. Through the first 12 weeks of the season, Mariota has tossed 2,998 yards, 25 touchdowns with just eight picks. His 101.9 QB rating is good enough for fifth in the league, and his 25 touchdowns has him fourth on the list.

As for Murray, I’d like to be the guy to point out how great his season has been. Everyone seems to be looking at rookie phenom Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas (and for good reason), leading the way with 1,285 yards and 12 touchdowns. But little do they realize Murray has put up 1,043 yards and eight touchdowns in much fewer carries than Elliott.

Elliott’s the clear-cut No. 1 running back right now at this point, with far more rushing yards and TDs than anyone else while also averaging 4.9 yards per carry. It’s incredible that a rookie has shredded defenses like this in 3/4 of the season.

But past Elliott, Murray and Arizona’s David Johnson have quietly been putting up strong 2016 campaigns of their own.

While Tennessee sits at 6-6, this team is still very much alive in the AFC South race. It’ll be interesting to see if Mariota/Murray can finish strong and help this Tennessee squad capture the South title.

Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

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