National pundits didn’t make much of the Titans trading for DeMarco Murray in the offseason. It was deemed a “going through the motions” trade of a fourth round pick for a slow, washed up running back whose prime was in his past. Granted, Murray was coming off a horrible season in Philadelphia. But so far, they can’t have been more wrong.
Murray has looked absolutely rejuvenated in 2016. He currently ranks fourth in the NFL in all-purpose yardage and eighth in the league in rushing yards per game. He’s also Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest graded running backs, earning high marks in both running and receiving aspects.
He’s running with patience and power. In addition, he’s been our most reliable target in the passing game. His soft hands are essential for Marcus Mariota’s passes, and his after-the-catch ability has been more than apparent. Anyone who saw him in his days in Dallas knew how smooth of a pass-catcher he was and is.
His season in Philadelphia was an anomaly. He went for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns his last year in Dallas before leaving. And he now has started off great in Tennessee and is averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Chip Kelly completely misused him in Philly, constantly running him horizontally out of shotgun. Now that he’s back in a more traditional offense with plenty of I-formation plays, he’s able to get going downhill through holes.
While the Titans offense has struggled, DeMarco and the running game has not. We haven’t been able to use the efficient run game to its full potential. But the ability to slow the game down and pick up chunk yardage in the running game has resulted in less time on the field for opposing defenses, and therefore less points from our opponents through the first three games.
If the passing offense can get going, and I believe it can once Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker are both back, then the running game will really start to control games. If we can get out to early leads, Murray and the offensive line can dominate with a positive game script and force our opponents into taking shots in limited possessions.