Who's more valuable to future of Cowboys' offense
Murray is link offense needs
While Dez Bryant is a force to worry about in the passing game, the Dallas Cowboys are 1-2 this year when he logs more than 100 receiving yards. In his three-year career, the Cowboys are just 2-2 when he hits the century mark.
Not good enough.
DeMarco Murray represents the future for the Cowboys. In two NFL seasons, the Cowboys are 4-0 when Murray tallies more than 100 rushing yards. In the five games he has missed -- soon to be six, if Murray's out for the Thanksgiving Day game against the Washington Redskins -- the Cowboys' rushing attack has been stagnant.
It's easy to blame the offensive line for not finding enough running lanes or a lack of continuity because of the injuries to their interior, especially at center. But the missing link is Murray.
The Cowboys need Murray because he's their most complete running back and one of their best offensive players. One has to wonder if the team is being overly cautious when it comes to bringing him back from his sprained foot. The Cowboys will have to rely on Murray for the season's stretch run if they're going to reach the postseason. Murray is more important than Bryant.
Yes, Bryant makes plays -- spectacular plays at that -- but not enough right plays. And defenses can take Bryant out quickly with double coverages. Murray makes the right plays, the hard plays and the spectacular plays even with eight men in the box.
Murray saves Jason Garrett from calling 45 to 50 passing plays a game. Murray saves Tony Romo from trying to improvise in the pocket with dangerous shuffle passes. Bryant is a fantastic talent, a player who can win games for you.
But if the Cowboys want a future in which they can depend on someone to get them big and short yardage when necessary, Murray is the key ingredient.
There's nothing wrong with running the football. Nothing at all. You can talk all you want about NFL teams that love to pass the ball all the way to the Super Bowl. But the Cowboys are not reaching the Super Bowl at this stage by passing. Back in the 1990s the Cowboys had a great passing attack, but there was a guy named Emmitt Smith who eventually became the all-time leading rusher. The Cowboys figured out then they needed to run the ball more. All that's happening now is a once-proud franchise has turned mediocre.
It's time for the Cowboys to put the load on Murray.
Proof is in production ... and health
There's no question a good ground game is critical to Tony Romo's hope for success in the air. But Murray hasn't shown that he can stay healthy.
That's not to say Bryant is exactly reliable. We all know the off-field issues he has had. But Sunday's game is tangible proof of what he can do. Bryant caught 12 passes and collected 145 yards and a touchdown. He helped keep drives alive and became a go-to target for Romo. It was the Bryant the Cowboys hoped to see when they drafted him in the first round in 2010.
Bryant must continue to catch the ball and make plays when given the opportunity. That's how he can build trust with Romo and, in turn, get targeted even more.
When it comes to Bryant over Murray, one place to start is touchdowns. Bryant has 21 touchdowns in his two-plus seasons, while Murray has three in his one-plus seasons. Part of that is health -- or lack thereof -- from Murray in 2012. But this is a results-oriented business and Bryant is getting more results.
Bryant also has been involved in 32 first-down plays. That's third on the team. Of those 32, nine have come on third or fourth downs. In other words: Bryant is helping this team move the chains. He has been called upon in more critical situations that determine whether a Dallas drive continues.
There's no question that a productive ground game can aid the passing game. But with Jason Garrett calling plays, the pass will come first for this club. That means Romo has to have receivers who can make plays. And he can't throw every ball to Jason Witten or Miles Austin. Besides, we've seen how teams have gotten into cap trouble by signing running backs to big second contracts only to have them disappoint. Do you trust that Murray can stay healthy? That he's worth that second contract?
Bryant's mission now is to show that what he did against the struggling Cleveland Browns isn't just the high point of his 2012 season. He has to validate that performance with more solid showings in the weeks and years to come. He can be a big part of this football team's future. Obviously, he has got to keep himself out of trouble. But if Bryant focuses on football and does what he did on Sunday on a more regular basis, there's no reason to think he can't be the game-changing wide receiver this club needs.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Galloway & Company overreact to the Cowboys' Week 11 overtime win against the Browns.
Ben calls out all the Tony Romo haters following the Cowboys' win over the Browns at Jerry World.
Was Cowboys WR Dez Bryant a beast against the Browns or did he just have a good game?