Chargers’ D faces tough challenge in Titans’ Murray
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — DeMarco Murray never lost confidence in himself or how well he can play in the NFL.
Now he’s proving just how much being in the right place can matter so much.
Halfway through this season, Murray already has run for more yards than all of last season in Philadelphia.
Better yet, he leads the AFC and is second in the NFL with 756 yards rushing. Production that simply reinforces the decision he made in March with the chance to be traded by the Eagles to Tennessee in March.
"I think anywhere else it would’ve been a mistake," Murray said Thursday.
"I think this is a place that’s meant for me, and I’m meant for it. This is a great coaching staff. Obviously, a lot of great teammates, the organization is where it needs to be. But I think it’s only going to get better. It’s very positive that we’re heading in the right direction."
Murray is just the sixth running back in NFL history to run for at least 750 yards and have eight total touchdowns in his first eight games with a team.
The only difference? Murray is 28 with his third team, while the others all were rookies: Doug Martin in 2012, Adrian Peterson in Minnesota in 2007, Eric Dickerson with the 1983 Rams, Billy Sims with the 1980 Lions and Chicago’s Beattie Feathers in 1934.
Murray also ranks second in the league with 953 yards from scrimmage and is tied for fourth with his eight TDs.
The performance isn’t surprising for a running back who led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards in 2014 in Dallas, earning the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award.
He signed a five-year, $42 million contract in Philadelphia, yet Murray only had one 100-yard game with the Eagles while running for 702 yards and averaging a career-worst 3.6 yards per carry.
"Whenever you get the opportunities, you’ve got to make the most of them," Murray said. "Sometimes I didn’t do that last year, and that has a lot to do with me. But just got to learn from every situation and go from there."
The change in scenery certainly didn’t hurt.
The running back made sure to research the Titans and new head coach Mike Mularkey before agreeing to the trade. He liked the Titans’ plan to run the ball.
Murray has almost as many carries (160) through eight games in Tennessee as he had all of last season in 15 games with Philadelphia (193). He already has four 100-yard rushing games and is coming off his best performance yet, running 21 times for 123 yards in a 36-22 win over Jacksonville last week.
Mularkey said the Titans promised that Murray would be their featured back, and the first half of this season has proven everything they told him has come true.
That’s helping the Titans (4-4) improve their win total from last season with eight games left to do even better.
"We’re just trying to play to their strengths, and his is downhill," Mularkey said. "I didn’t think he’d lose that in a year."
Thanks to Murray’s success, Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry hasn’t been needed much at all. The Titans did give Henry 16 carries for 60 yards — both season highs — in the win over Jacksonville. He also caught four passes for 37 yards.
The combination has Tennessee ranked third in the NFL in averaging 152.2 yards per game.
"They run the ball the way it’s supposed to be run," said Chargers coach Mike McCoy who gets to defend Murray on Sunday.
Murray says he isn’t paying attention to where he’s ranked in the NFL, much more focused on helping Tennessee reach the playoffs. That’s something the Titans haven’t done since 2008, but they trail Houston by a game in the AFC South.
"Playoffs is much more important for me than rushing yards," Murray said.
Notes: Murray (toe) practiced fully Thursday and said he feels fine. TE Delanie Walker (groin) was added to the injury report Thursday and was limited along with S Rashad Johnson (neck) and LB Aaron Wallace (shoulder). LG Quinton Spain (right knee) did not practice.
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