DeMarco Murray's season deserves praise

There was a stretch of games during the 2013 season where it seemed people in Dallas/Fort Worth wanted to run running back DeMarco Murray out of town.

After rushing for 175 yards in a victory against St. Louis in Week 3, Murray gained 113 yards the next two weeks, both losses. He was injured in a victory against Washington, where he gained 29 yards on seven carries.

Then all the discussions came up again about Murray's durability. He missed two games and his replacement, Joseph Randle, didn't do enough to warrant a change in the starting lineup.

When the season eventually ended, Murray rushed for a career-high 1,124 yards with nine touchdowns. He became the first Cowboys running back to gain 1,000 yards in a season since Julius Jones did it in 2006.

Bill Barnwell from Grantland placed Murray, who finished 10th in rushing yards, on the second team of his NFL All-Pro Team.

You might not like Murray's running style. He isn't Chris Johnson-fast, but has deceptive speed and runs in measured paces. He's not as physical as you would like, there were a few games he ran out of bounds instead of taking on the defender.

And there was the Philadelphia Eagles game, where he placed a helmet into the chest of a defender, which resulted in a fine from the league. So you wondered just what type of runner Murray is: finesse or physical or a combination of both.

But Murray's 2013 season was better than you expected.

"We’ve always felt good about DeMarco," coach Jason Garrett said when the season ended. "If you think about his rookie year, when he had opportunities to play, he played well right from the start. He made a big impact on our team. He, like some of the other guys on our team, has dealt with injuries. When he’s been out of the lineup over the course of his career, we haven’t played as well."

That's the problem with Murray, or maybe the Cowboys.

They don't know how to use their personnel. Murray's style hasn't changed much since he arrived as a 2011 third-round pick from Oklahoma. Durability concerns will always follow him, his commitment to the game doesn't wane and he took the high road when offensive coordinator Bill Callahan struggled to find run plays in the playbook and quarterback Tony Romo changed run plays to pass.

Murray is a solid running back and should be utilized more in 2014. The Cowboys will deny they ignore Murray, instead using the flawed logic that defenses and pace of the game decide if they should run or pass.

Garrett's offense is all about the pass, never changed from the moment he took over the play-calling duties full-time in 2008. Garrett talks about balance, which is something he doesn't do with consistency.

If Garrett wants another year to coach the Cowboys -- he enters his final year in 2014 -- he better make sure Murray gets his opportunities to help the offense. Of the 13 runners who gained at least 1,000 yards in 2013, Murray did it in the fewest carries (217) while playing in 14 games. Detroit's Reggie Bush picked up 1,006 in 14 games but had 223 carries.

"When he’s been in the lineup and going and playing well and feeling healthy and playing like himself, he has been a really, really effective player for us," Garrett said of Murray. "And helped our team create some of that balance we've been talking about."