Dallas Cowboys: Maurice Jones-Drew

Could RB market help Dallas with Murray?

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
IRVING, Texas -- While we have discussed the long-term futures of Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, one player we have not touched on much is DeMarco Murray.

Murray is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. He was named to the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns, and catching 53 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown. When Murray has played well and been given a chance to carry the ball, the Cowboys have won.

But running backs’ values have dropped dramatically in the past few years. If they aren’t Adrian Peterson, they don’t get paid the mega deals. And the guys that have been paid in recent years, like Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew, have taken a downturn.

In 2008, the Cowboys signed Marion Barber to a seven-year deal worth $45 million that included $16 million in guarantees.

Those days are long gone.

The best free-agent deals for running backs so far have been to Donald Brown and Toby Gerhart, who received three-year, $10.5 million deals from the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively. Brown has never rushed for more than 645 yards in a season. Gerhart has never rushed for more than 531 yards, though he was playing behind Peterson.

Knowshon Moreno is joining the Miami Dolphins on a one-year, $3 million deal after rushing for 1,038 yards in 2013 for the Denver Broncos. Rashad Jennings received a three-year, $10 million deal from the New York Giants after rushing for 733 yards last season with the Oakland Raiders.

Murray had his best season in 2013, but he missed two games and has yet to play a full season. But his advisors have to see how the market is going for running backs. There wasn’t a running back taken in the first round last year. The top running back chosen in 2012, Trent Richardson (No. 3 overall), was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last season.

Murray will make $1.406 million in 2014 as part of his rookie deal.

The Cowboys could lock him in for another three seasons at a good number and still have plenty in reserve for Smith and Bryant.
LaDainian Tomlinson's retirement puts into perspective just how unlikely it is that Emmitt Smith's all-time rushing record will ever be challenged.

Tomlinson finished his phenomenal career as the NFL’s fifth all-time leading rusher – a whopping 4,671 yards shy of his childhood idol. (That’s a figure almost equal to the career total of fellow recent retiree Marion Barber, arguably the Cowboys’ best back since Smith’s departure.)

Thomas Jones is the only other active back who is even halfway to Smith’s 18,355 yards. And Jones is 33 years old, coming off a 478-yard season and almost 8,000 yards away.

I compared Smith’s record to Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak Sunday on Twitter. A follower replied with a better comparison: Cy Young’s 511 wins.

The records set by Smith and Young are testaments to tremendous durability almost as much as they are Hall of Fame talent. Those records will probably never be challenged in part because the games have changed so much.

Young started every four days, if not more often, and pitched a complete game more than 90 percent of the time. Complete games are a rarity these days with the reliance on bullpens, even though five-man starting rotations are the norm.

Smith was a workhorse back his entire career, an endangered species in today’s NFL. This has become a passing league with running back committees the norm, but tailbacks still seem to burn out faster than ever before.

Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew (6,854 yards) and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (6,752 yards) are the only active backs who appear to have even a slim chance of legitimately chasing Smith’s record. They’re 26 years old and over a third of the way there.

But 28 is considered old at their position, 30 over the hill. And Jones-Drew and Peterson would have to rush for more yards the rest of their careers than O.J. Simpson did in his entire career to catch Smith.

The odds of Smith’s record being broken are about as good as O.J.’s odds of succeeding in his quest to find the real killer.

Keith Brooking: LeSean McCoy is NFL's best RB

December, 21, 2011
IRVING, Texas – It’s safe to assume that Keith Brooking put Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy on his ballot when the Cowboys voted for the Pro Bowl this afternoon.

“I don’t understand why he’s not talked about as the best back in this league,” Brooking said. “I mean, I’m sure you can argue a couple of guys, but he’s right there at the top.”

McCoy’s stats this season support Brooking’s case for him. McCoy ranks second in the league behind Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew with 1,274 rushing yards. His 17 rushing touchdowns easily lead the league. And McCoy has added another 305 yards and three touchdowns on 47 receptions.

McCoy’s best performance came in the Eagles’ Oct. 30 rout over the Cowboys. McCoy rushed for 185 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries in that game, recording the most prolific rushing performance against the Cowboys in more than a decade.

“Some of the plays were just Shady just made an unbelievable play,” Brooking said. “Guys were in position, they were where they were supposed to be, and he’s just the best at what he does in this league. I would argue that with anybody.

“Then some of it was we weren’t [gap] responsible. When a guy like that makes a couple of plays in the running game, I’ve been in games where you’re like, ‘Aw, man, I’ve got to do a little something more. I’ve got to do a little extra. This guy is unbelievable.’ You start to do that and guys are out of gaps and you’re not playing that responsibility, and it’s kind of a snowball.”

Grudge Match: Jaguars-Cowboys

October, 30, 2010

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Cowboys run defense: The Jaguars have some offensive talent on their squad at wide receiver and tight end, but their best player is running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

Jones-Drew might be short on height, but he is not short on talent. He is a dynamic ball carrier and possesses the ability to score from anywhere on the field. He is a runner with outstanding physical gifts of balance, power and vision. He is a patient ballcarrier and he will let blocks develop then find a way through the hole.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Kim Klement/US PresswireThe Jaguars offense runs through its explosive running back, Maurice Jones-Drew.
The offensive line that he plays behind is not the best one the Cowboys have faced this season, but his ability makes them better as a group. The Jaguars are playing with a new right tackle in Jordan Black. With the exception of left tackle Eugene Monroe, it’s a suspect group overall.

The Cowboys allowed 201 yards rushing last week to the Giants and that went a long way in deciding the outcome of the game. Jones-Drew is a physical ball carrier and his-low-to-the-ground running style makes it difficult to get a solid shot on him. He also is an accomplished pass receiver. The Jaguars like to use him in the red zone matched up against linebackers that can’t handle his quickness and elusive moves.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has studied what the last three opponents have done to the Cowboys in the running game and should tailor a game plan to run the football in a fashion that will give the Cowboys the most trouble. A successful running game starts with Jones-Drew, but it also could open up more opportunities to the tight end and receivers.

*Jaguars defensive end Aaron Kampman vs. Cowboys left tackle Doug Free: The Jaguars struggle to rush the passer. When they do get pressure, it’s usually because of Aaron Kampman providing it.

Kampman originally broke into the league with the Green Bay Packers but was a big-ticket signing for the Jaguars in April. Kampman is a high effort and motor guy. He is a relentless pass rusher that is always coming at you. Would not call him a powerful or strong player, but one that uses technique and smarts to his advantage.

He is a similar type of player that Free faced two weeks ago in Jared Allen at Minnesota. Kampman uses several different pass rush moves, so Free will need to bring his “A” game. Kampman likes to work wide up the field to the tackle’s corner, then slap the tackle’s hands to get around the edge. Kampman will do everything in his power to keep the tackle’s hands from his body.

If Kampman has a weakness, it's that his lack of strength hurts him in the running game. Teams have had success running the ball to his side because he doesn’t have the power to fight off the block. But if he gets the edge and keeps his feet working, he can get down the line and make the tackle. Kampman will usually line up as the right end, but in the nickel, he will move to left end and Larry Hart will rush from the other side.

[+] EnlargeDoug Free
Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMICowboys left tackle Doug Free will have his hands full with Aaron Kampman and the Jaguars' pass rush.
*Jaguars safeties vs. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten: With the change at quarterback with the Cowboys going to Jon Kitna, I have a feeling that tight end Jason Witten is going to become one of Kitna’s best friends in this offense.

Kitna is unlike Romo in what he will do with the football. Romo will take chances down the field, while Kitna is more likely to check the ball down or attempt passes that move the chains.

In studying the Jaguars on defense, I did not come away with the impression that they had someone that could effectively match up with Witten. I always talk about Witten as this mismatch player that is too athletic for linebackers to deal with and too big for defensive backs to handle down the field. This Jaguars defense doesn’t have anyone that can stay with Witten down after down.

If Kitna knows that, he will be more likely to look Witten’s way, especially on third downs and in the red zone, which are two areas that the Jaguars really struggle in.

The Cowboys’ offense will be different with Kitna at quarterback because he doesn’t have the ability to make the loose or second-chance plays like Romo does. Kitna will be solid presnap and take what the defense will give him from his read. Don’t be the bit surprised if Jason Witten plays a big role in the success of the Cowboys on Sunday.

Scout's Eye: Jaguars-Cowboys preview

October, 29, 2010
The 1-5 Dallas Cowboys host the 3-4 Jacksonville Jaguars in a battle of two teams that struggled to defend the run last week in their losses.

Scout's Eye
The Cowboys allowed the Giants 201 yards on the ground. The Jaguars allowed the Chiefs to rush for 236.

It’s another week and another quality running back that Wade Phillips’ squad must face. When you study the Jaguars offense, the one player that stands out is running back Maurice Jones-Drew. He is nowhere the height of Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson, but he runs with the same power and determination of those larger backs.

Jones-Drew has impressive stop-start quickness. He runs with outstanding patience and vision. He does much of his work on his own because his offensive line doesn’t always get the type of push that some of the top running teams get in this league.

Jones-Drew is a difficult back to tackle because of his low-to-the-ground running style. It’s hard to get a clean hit on him because of his compact body type. Jones-Drew is not afraid to carry the ball inside but does a very nice job of getting it on the edge and around the corner. Quick feet and powerful legs are his trade marks.

Another area that the Cowboys must be concerned with is Jones-Drew’s ability to catch the ball. The Jaguars will use him in the red zone, trying to create mismatches with linebackers on Texas routes inside.

If the Cowboys are going to have success on defense this Sunday, controlling Jones-Drew is a must. A repeat of what happened to them last week against the Giants will only create more opportunity for this offense.

Jaguars quarterback David Garrard missed last week’s game in Kansas City with concussion that he suffered in a Week 6 loss to the Titans. Jacksonville fans have always had a love/hate relationship with their signal-caller. Garrard is 34-34 as a starter, and depending who you were talking to in the Jaguars organization, there were those that believed that this was a make-or-break year for him.

Garrard has had two three-touchdown games this season. In the Jaguars’ three wins, Garrard has completed 77 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and one interception.

Garrard has really shined in his starts in the fourth quarter. His quarterback rating is 114.8 and he has three touchdowns and no interceptions.

When the Jaguars throw the ball, it’s usually going in the direction of the two “Mikes” -- Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas. Both are not big-name type of players, but it was interesting to study them getting ready for this game.

I was impressed with the playmaking ability of Thomas, a DeSoto native. He is like Jones-Drew in that he is a short guy, only 5-foot-7 and change, but he has playmaking ability not only on the offensive side of the ball but also as a punt returner. Thomas has 4.30 speed and unbelievable quickness. He is a slippery player with the ball in his hands.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter does a nice job of creating opportunities for Thomas by getting the ball in his hands through screens and reverses. Thomas uses his speed and quickness in his route running as well. Saw one ball where he adjusted very well to a low ball across the middle, but the next time was unable to bring it in.

The Jaguars have a talented tight end in Marcedes Lewis. Lewis is a large target that is a nice up-the-field player. He has solid hands and runs very well. The Jaguars will use him out of the backfield, flexed and inline. Lewis has the potential in this game to be a matchup problem for the linebackers and the safeties. Like Thomas, the Jaguars like to get the ball in his hands on the waggle and in the red zone.

*On defense for the Jaguars, there is nothing particularly good that they do. They are ranked near the bottom in most statistical areas. They are 30th in total defense and 31st in points allowed.

The pass rush is poor and they struggle to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. Former Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman is really the only bright spot as a pass rusher with four sacks. Kampman is a try-hard guy that plays with big effort and will show a variety of pass rush moves as he works his way to the quarterback.

Kampman will work from both sides but mainly over Doug Free. When he switches to the other side in the nickel, rookie Larry Hart will take his spot at right end.

Rookie Tyson Alualu plays the 3 technique while Terrence Knighton lines up as the 1 in this 4-3 defense. I really do like the motor on Alualu and the way that he keeps coming after you inside. Need to watch the matchup of Leonard Davis and Phil Costa against Alualu. He plays with nice power and strength but has also shown the ability to use his quickness to be disruptive pushing the pocket inside.

Jon Kitna is not the most mobile quarterback. He has the most problems when the front of the pocket becomes soft and there is not a wall for him to move forward in.

In the secondary, cornerback Rashean Mathis is the best player and is someone that the Cowboys should avoid at all costs.

Mathis played left corner in the Kansas City game last week but then played right corner against the Titans. Mathis will bait you into throws. He gives you a look like his man is open, then drives on the football after the quarterback throws it. He is instinctive and a reader. There were times that he floats in coverage then comes off his man to make a play on the ball in another area.

If the Cowboys on defense are going to struggle to cover tight end Lewis, the Jaguars will struggle to cover Jason Witten as well. Was not one bit impressed with the linebackers or safeties in coverage. Kansas City had a great deal of success running waggle and boots to their tight ends, which gave the Jaguars fits. Would not be the least bit surprised if Kitna calls Witten’s number several times in this contest, because the Jaguars do not have anyone that can cover Witten.

It will be interesting if offensive coordinator Jason Garrett goes with a game plan to try to get his running game going to help Kitna, or does he throw the ball all over Cowboys Stadium on Sunday because of the lack of a pass rush for the Jaguars and some match up problems in the secondary?