Tag: Ezekiel Elliott

Happy Birthday to DeMarco Murray, a Third Round Pick With First Round Talent

murraycowboys

DeMarco Murray was the Cowboys’ third round choice in the 2011 NFL Draft.  The Cowboys certainly got their money’s worth from the former Oklahoma Sooner who gave Dallas all he had during his four years wearing the Cowboys’ star.

In their history, the Dallas Cowboys have selected numerous running backs in the first round of the NFL draft who have gone on to stardom. In 1969 the Cowboys selected Calvin Hill, a multi-talented back who was the first Cowboy to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. One year later, Dallas took silky smooth Duane Thomas who helped lead Dallas to its first Super Bowl title following the 1971 season before forcing his way out of town due to dissatisfaction with his contract.  The 1977 draft brought Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett to Dallas, and all the speedy halfback from western Pennsylvania did was make it all the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  13 years after the Dorsett pick, the Cowboys struck gold again selecting Florida’s Emmitt Smith who would pace Dallas to a record three Super Bowl wins in four years and end up enshrined in Canton along with Dorsett. And this past season, first round selection Ezekiel Elliott took the NFL by storm and seems destined for the type of stardom Dorsett and Smith achieved.

When listing the best seasons for a running back in Cowboys history, a third round choice from 2011 muscles his way into the mix alongside the backs selected in the first round.  Coming to Dallas in 2011 out of the University of Oklahoma, DeMarco Murray ended his four year stay in Dallas with a season to remember.

Murray, who turns 29 years old today, set a Cowboys’ record with 1,845 yards rushing in the 2014 campaign and became the first back in NFL history to open a season with 100 plus yards rushing in the first eight games of a season. Murray reached the century mark in a Cowboys’ record 12 of the team’s 16 games, one more than Smith had in the 1995 campaign.   In 2014, Murray and the Cowboys’ talented offensive line helped change the team’s offensive identity from a pass-first group to one that more resembled the early to mid-1990s teams that leaned heavily on Smith and “the great wall of Dallas” offensive line to control games.

According to Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value number, Murray’s 2014 campaign ranks right behind three vintage Smith seasons as the best season for a running back in Cowboys’ history:

BEST SEASONS IN COWBOYS’ HISTORY- RUNNING BACK

Approx Value          Year              Back

20                                1992              Emmitt Smith

20                                 1993              Emmitt Smith

20                                  1995              Emmitt Smith

19                                  2014               DeMarco Murray

17                                  1978                Tony Dorsett

17                                   1991                Emmitt Smith

17                                    1994               Emmitt Smith

16                                   1973                 Calvin Hill

16                                    1977                Tony Dorsett

16                                    2016                 Ezekiel Elliott

 

Murray’s time in Dallas was brief, as the workhorse back left the Cowboys following his special 2014 season to join division rival Philadelphia.  A combination of Murray’s departure and injuries to quarterback Tony Romo caused a dramatic falloff in the Cowboys’ production as the 12-4 division winning squad of 2014 slumped to a miserable 4-12 in a mostly forgettable 2015 campaign.  The only good thing coming out of that season was that the Cowboys’ bleak record put them in position to find a worthy successor to Murray in the talented Elliott who helped reestablish the effective style Murray and the Cowboys had demonstrated in 2014.

After a miserable season in Philadelphia in 2015, Murray rebounded to gain 1,287 yards rushing and score nine touchdowns for the Tennessee Titans last season.  The hard-working back demonstrated the style that made him a fan favorite in Dallas in 2014.   Happy 29th birthday whose Cowboys’ career was brief but certainly spectacular.

Cowboys Notes- December 4, 2016

dallas-cowboys-qb-dak-prescott-impresses-as-tony-romos-understudy

Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott’s 2016 season so far compares favorably with some of the best quarterbacks in football.

It’s the second straight Sunday for us with no Cowboys’ football, but consecutive Thursday victories (first on Thanksgiving against the Redskins and this past Thursday at Minnesota) have the Cowboys on the verge of clinching a playoff spot today.  Losses by either Tampa Bay, who plays at San Diego, or Washington, who visits Arizona, will put Dallas in the playoffs for the 31st time in team history.

While we wait to see what happens in San Diego and Arizona, and probably more importantly in Pittsburgh where the Steelers face off against Dallas’ chief challenger in the NFC East (the New York Giants), let’s look at some interesting notes coming out of one of the most successful regular seasons (at least to date) in team history.

PRECOCIOUS PRESCOTT 

Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott’s play so far has been perhaps THE story of the NFL season. While many thought the Cowboys’ fortunes were sunk when veteran Tony Romo went down with a pre-season injury,  Prescott has taken the reins of a talented Cowboys’ offense that has shown to be one of the best in the league.

Prescott’s ability to keep from throwing the ball to the opponent has separated him from most quarterbacks in the NFL.   So far, Prescott has thrown 358 passes and has been intercepted only twice (a .6 interception percentage).   Since 1970, the best interception percentage mark in a full season for a quarterback with at least 3,000 yards passing was Robert Griffin III’s 1.27 figure set in 2012.

The Cowboys’ rookie is also on pace to set a Cowboys’ record for fewest interceptions thrown by a quarterback with at least 358 pass attempts in a year. Troy Aikman’s 1993 season, in which he had only six passes intercepted in 392 attempts, is currently the best for the Cowboys, with Aikman’s 1995 campaign (432 attempts, seven interceptions) and Roger Staubach’s 1977 season (361 attempts, nine interceptions) next in line.

LEADING THE WAY

The Cowboys’ 11 wins so far in 2016 give Dallas 28 seasons with a double digit win total since the team’s inception in 1960. Dallas’ record is far and away the top mark in the NFL during that time period.  San Francisco, Pittsburgh, New England and Indianapolis (including the Colts’ time in Baltimore) are behind Dallas with 23 double digit win seasons since 1960, with Philadelphia and Green Bay next with 22 such seasons each.

“X” TIMES 65

Dez Bryant’s touchdown catch on Thursday at Minnesota gave the wideout his 65th career touchdown reception, tying him with Hall of Famer Michael Irvin for the second highest total in Cowboys’ history.  Bryant and Irvin trail another Hall of Famer, Bob Hayes who caught 71 scoring passes in his Cowboys’ career.

Here are some fun facts about the scoring catches for three of the four best wide receivers (I am including Drew Pearson in this list) in Cowboys’ history:

BRYANT-  Has scored 50 of his 65 on passes from Tony Romo.  Nine of Bryant’s scoring passes have been from 50 yards or greater, while Bryant has used his NBA-like body and toughness to score 26 touchdowns on passes of 10 yards or less.

HAYES-  Connected with Don Meredith for 36 scores, Craig Morton for 21 and Roger Staubach for 11. Is the only member of the trio to have caught touchdown passes thrown by non-quarterbacks (Hayes was on the receiving end of scoring tosses by halfback Calvin Hill and fellow received Lance Rentzel during his career).  19 of Bullet Bob’s touchdown catches came on plays of 50 yards or more.

IRVIN- Teamed up with fellow Hall of Famer Troy Aikman for 49 touchdown passes.  23 of his touchdowns came on plays of 10 yards of less, and another ten came on plays of 50 yards or more.  Irvin also has caught a Cowboys’ record eight touchdown passes in post-season play (Hayes had two playoff touchdown catches and Bryant has not yet had one).

LONG DRIVES TO PAYDIRT

In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys have had 24 drives that ended up in touchdowns when the team started out no further than its own 25 yard line.  Since 1999 when Pro Football Reference started tracking this information, the Cowboys’ only year with more 75 yard plus touchdown drives was in 2014 when the 12-4 NFC East champion team had 28.  The only other squad to even equal the 2016 team’s performance so far was the 2012 team that had 24 75 yard plus drives in route to its 8-8 mark.

ALMOST THERE

While many were shocked by Prescott’s emergence in 2016, few have been over fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott’s dominant play so far on the year. The multi-talented rookie scored his 13th touchdown of the year against Minnesota three days ago, putting him one behind Herschel Walker’s 14 in 1986 for the most touchdowns scored by a rookie in Cowboys’ history.  Since the merger in 1970, Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson has the most touchdowns in a year by a rookie with 20 in 1983.  With four games to go, Elliott has an outside shot of equaling or exceeding that mark.