Dallas Cowboys: Five-star W8

Five-Star question: Will DeMarco Murray gain 100 yards against the Eagles' 23rd-ranked run defense?

No one in his right mind expects DeMarco Murray to have another 200-yard performance this week, but the Eagles give up so many big plays on the ground that he should eclipse 100 yards.

We're talking about the 23rd-ranked run defense that's allowing 4.8 yards per carry. More important, the Eagles have yielded 23 runs of 10 yards or more in just six games.

Trust me, that's hard to do.

They've also yielded six runs of 20 yards or more.

The one thing Murray proved he could do in his record-setting performance against the hapless Rams and their raggedy run defense is make the big play. He had two runs of 19 yards, a 43-yarder and, of course, the 91-yard sprint to the end zone that set up his 253-yard performance.

On his 91-yard run, Murray flashed his speed and vision. Once he burst in to the secondary, he made a nifty cut on the safety and he was gone.

On the 43-yard fourth-quarter run that allowed him to break Emmitt Smith's franchise rushing record, he ran over a defender at the line of scrimmage and zoomed into the secondary instead of being dropped for no gain.

That versatility should serve him well Sunday against the Eagles.

Five-star: Good blocking will pave way for Murray

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
9:52
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Five-Star question: Will DeMarco Murray gain 100 yards against the Eagles' 23rd-ranked run defense?

Not taking anything away from DeMarco Murray and what he was able to do against the St. Louis Rams last week, but an awful lot of credit needs to be given to the Cowboys' offensive line, the tight ends and what fullback Tony Fiammetta was able to do at the point of attack. The Rams are a poor run defense and really struggled to get off blocks. If the Cowboys are able to continue to have Kyle Kosier and Tyron Smith get so much push, that Montrae Holland can get around the corner on a pull, block no one and still gain 7 yards, I would say that they would have success in the running game.

The Eagles' front seven is not built in a manner to stop the run. It's a pressure group that tests your ability to pass protect. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson is the only player that is 300 pounds. Defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole play in a 4-3 defensive scheme what we call “Wide 9's” -- lining up on the outside shoulder of the tackles and rushing up the field as hard as they can. Cole is a much better run player than Babin, but both are undersized so they will struggle to have big bodies or multiple bodies on them.

The inside linebackers are undersized for the Eagles as well. When you run the ball at them, it is difficult for them to handle that power. Where they are at their best is if they are allowed to run to the ball and make plays from sideline to sideline.

Where the Cowboys can have success running the ball is if they can continue to get hats on hats and make the front seven for the Eagles have to fight blocks. Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett and John Phillips need to set the edge to allow Fiammetta to clean up defenders in space.

If the Cowboys can force the Eagles into having commit safeties in the box to help with the run, they have a chance to have a nice day offensively. I do think the Cowboys can block this front, and Murray will get his 100 yards Sunday.

Five-star: DeMarco Murray won't get there

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
9:10
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Will DeMarco Murray gain 100 yards against Philadelphia's 23rd-ranked run defense?

No. It's one thing to get 253 yards against the St. Louis Rams, but it's another thing to get 100 yards against the Eagles. Yes, Murray showed flashes he can be a productive member of this football team. But the interesting thing about his performance vs. the Rams is he broke just three tackles.

That's not a bad thing. The Rams barely got a hand on Murray thanks to the terrific blocking of the Cowboys offensive line and tight ends and fullback Tony Fiammetta.

It won't be so easy against the Eagles on Sunday night.

The Eagles held the Washington Redskins to just 42 rushing yards on Oct. 16. It was the first time all season the Eagles had done so. But guess what? After bye weeks, the Eagles are a much better team. Under Andy Reid the Eagles are 12-0 outscoring opponents by 10.6 points. The Eagles make adjustments better than anyone when given nearly two weeks to prepare. And while the Eagles don't blitz as much they're still a very physical front that commands the line of scrimmage.

As a unit, the Eagles have 21 tackles for loss with nine of those from the defensive line.

Murray got 25 carries in the victory over the Rams last Sunday, and it's doubtful he'll get those again because if the Cowboys are to win on Sunday night, a track meet might be necessary to compete.

Murray has the skill set, so does Felix Jones and Tashard Choice to become solid running backs in this league someday. But on Sunday night Murray will get slowed down.

Five-star: DeMarco Murray won't run free

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
9:05
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Five-star question: Will DeMarco Murray gain 100 yards against Philadelphia' 23rd-ranked run defense?

This does not mean DeMarco Murray will be a one-hit wonder, but he will not reach the century mark Sunday at Philadelphia a week after setting the franchise record for rushing yards in a game with 253 against St. Louis.

Philadelphia is allowing 4.8 yards per carry and is allowing 123.8 yards a game on the ground. Atlanta’s Michael Turner (114), San Francisco’s Frank Gore (127) and Buffalo’s Fred Jackson (111) put up more than 100 yards against the Eagles. St. Louis Cadillac Williams had 91 yards.

Leaky does not begin to describe the run defense.

But Washington’s leading rusher was Ryan Torain, who had 22 yards on 10 carries, in Philadelphia’s last game. Maybe, just maybe the Eagles are beginning to figure out how to play this “wide nine” scheme, although they did not practice during the bye week.

Murray was amazing against the Rams and I don’t care that the Rams had the worst-ranked run defense. That many yards in any game against any team in any league is a terrific feat. He deserves all of the accolades he has received.

But this is a road game and the Cowboys have had one 100-yard rusher in their last 18 road games. Tashard Choice had 100 yards against Indianapolis last year. They did not have a 100-yard rusher away from home in 2009.

I’m sensing a trend, which is why Murray will not reach 100 yards Sunday.

Five-star: It's all about commitment

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
9:00
AM ET
Will DeMarco Murray gain 100 yards against Philadelphia' 23rd-ranked run defense?

If Jason Garrett commits to the run, DeMarco Murray will crack triple digits again.

Give Murray 20 carries Sunday night and he’ll break at least one for a big gain. The Eagles have allowed six runs of at least 20 yards this season. Murray, who has sub-4.4 speed, busted runs for 91 and 43 yards during his record-setting performance against the Rams.

The key is that the Cowboys need to run the ball for positive yardage on a consistent basis, keeping the offense in favorable down-and-distance situations and making Garrett comfortable sticking to a conservative game plan. That’s a bigger challenge than you might believe given that the Eagles rank in the bottom-third of run defenses and allow 4.8 yards per carry.

Philadelphia’s problems against the run are primarily due to a poor linebacker corps and shaky safeties. Murray can do major damage if the Cowboys can get him to the second level.

However, the Eagles have a disruptive defensive line. According to Stats Inc., Philadelphia’s defense has dropped running backs for losses on 16.2 percent of carries, which is the fourth-best percentage in the NFL.

If the Cowboys don’t get whipped up front, Murray will find plenty of room to run against the Eagles. And he’ll get plenty of opportunities.

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