Big Decision: DeMarco Murray must carry Cowboys' load

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
12:00
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Since the day he learned tight end Jason Witten had a lacerated spleen, Jason Garrett has had three weeks to formulate Plan B.

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See, Garrett’s biggest issue isn’t whether to play Witten, it’s how to attack the Giants without Witten. Even if Witten somehow persuades Garrett and Jerry Jones to play, it’s silly to think Witten could handle his normal play load.

No Witten means Garrett will be without a significant chunk of his playbook.

Garrett loves formations with two tight ends because of the balance it gives an offensive formation since it eliminates the weakside on running plays.

The Cowboys were in formations with at least two tight ends on 346 of 1,017 plays (35 percent), according to Stats LLC. Garrett used a two tight end formation 320 times. Only San Francisco (348) and Houston (325) used it more.

We all know Garrett’s not going to use John Phillips and James Hanna on the field that much Wednesday against the Giants.

Witten caught 79 passes for 942 yards with five touchdowns last season, and provides Tony Romo with the security blanket every quarterbacks wants and needs to have.

So does Garrett trust third receiver Kevin Ogletree, who averaged 17 plays a game in 2011, enough after a good training camp to put him on the field with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant for 45 or 50 plays?

Or does he spend the bulk of the game in a traditional two receiver, two running back formation and let fullback Lawrence Vickers and running back DeMarco Murray be the focal point of the offense.

My guess? Garrett will put the ball in the hands of Murray.

After all, he had more than 20 carries in five of the eight games he was the primary ball-carrier, and delivered three games with more than 130 yards. A strong performance by Murray would allow the Cowboys to keep Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense off the field and slow down New York’s vaunted pass rush.

There will be other opportunities for Witten to show us why he’s among the game’s best tight ends, but this isn’t one of them.

Besides, the Cowboys are 5-0, when Murray gets at least 20 carries.

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