Who is more vital to the Cowboys' success?

Aside from Tony Romo, which player is more vital to the Cowboys' success in 2013?

  •  
    58%
  •  
    29%
  •  
    3%
  •  
    8%
  •  
    2%

(Total votes: 3,082)

DEZ BRYANT
DEMARCO MURRAY

88 may be best receiver in the NFL

MacMahon By Tim MacMahon
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

Let's not complicate matters too much with football philosophy here.

Successful offenses score points. It's that simple.

Dez Bryant scores a bunch. Heck, he had six touchdowns in December. That matches DeMarco Murray's two-year career total.

You really want to debate which one of those guys is more vital to the Dallas Cowboys' success this season?

If all goes well for Bryant, he might be the best receiver in the league. He was certainly in the neighborhood for the final eight games of 2012 when he had 879 yards and 10 touchdowns, while the Cowboys made an ultimately unsuccessful push for the playoffs.

If all goes well for Murray, he might be a Pro Bowl running back. He'd need to double his numbers from last season (663 rushing yards, four touchdowns) to have a decent case for a trip to Hawaii.

The ceiling is simply much higher for Bryant, by far the most dangerous weapon in Dallas' offensive arsenal.

Preach about the importance of being a balanced offense until you're blue in the face. We all know the Cowboys need to be much more effective running the ball than last season, when their rushing attack ranked second-to-last in the league and set franchise records for futility.

But let's be honest: That lack of success fell at the feet of the offensive line, first and foremost. Not Murray.

If the running game gets rolling this season, you can bet that Bryant will play a huge role in its success. His presence ought to open up running lanes for Murray and rookie backup Joseph Randle.

That's because Bryant will be the dude that every defensive coordinator who faces Dallas this season spends the most time thinking about and scheming to contain.

Bryant is the Cowboys' premier playmaker. Murray is a nice complementary piece.

No running game means no playoffs

Watkins By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com
Archive

This is nothing against Dez Bryant, who the Cowboys covet as their most explosive weapon in the passing game and, maybe, the entire offense.

But when it comes to making sure the offense has a pulse, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is vital, if not more important than Bryant.

The Cowboys forgot about the running game in 2012, mostly because they trailed in several games and were forced to pass first and run later. Murray missed six games with a sprained foot and Felix Jones was running on gimpy legs.

It added up to the Cowboys finishing 31st in the NFL in rushing.

Who led the NFC East in rushing yardage against division foes? Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins with 724 yards. Murray, meanwhile, had just 290.

And guess who made the playoffs last season?

When it counted the most -- during the final five weeks of the season -- the Cowboys came up very short.

In those games, the Cowboys rushed for just 399 yards -- 30th in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks finished with a league-high 1,059 rushing yards in that span. The Minnesota Vikings (1,015) and the Redskins (910) ranked second and third, respectively.

It's not hard to see what running the ball means to an offense, especially late in the season.

In one of the biggest games of the 2012 season, Murray dove for the first down on a key third-down play in the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals to clinch the victory. Players and coaches standing along the sidelines erupted with joy.

The running game made that happen.

Murray needs to remain healthy for this to work. However, the Cowboys have fortified their depth at the position, in case Murray does get beat up again.

Joseph Randle, a fifth-round pick, could take over if necessary, as he has the temperament of a starter. Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner looked good this offseason and could provide third-down help if called upon.

The Cowboys' actions answer this debate. Their focus on beefing up the running game says it all -- without a big year from Murray, another big year from Dez won't matter.

103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Nate Newton

Nate Newton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Dez Bryant, Tony Romo and the Cowboys' offensive line as training camp approaches.

Galloway & Company: Cowboys talk

Galloway & Company's Glenn "Stretch" Smith is excited about the Cowboys running game.