DeMarco Murray deserves leading role

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's time to end this madness.

The Dallas Cowboys need to start DeMarco Murray at running back.

Nothing personal against Felix Jones, but it appears Cowboys coach Jason Garrett needs to do the right thing and start Murray.

Of course, Jones continues to deal with a high ankle sprain that's cost him three games of the 2011 season, including Sunday's win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Jones said he's taking things day by day. He doesn't want to say he's going to be back and then suffer a setback.

But Murray, the rookie from Oklahoma by way of Las Vegas, is playing well for the Cowboys.

In the past three games, Murray rushed for 466 yards on 55 carries with one touchdown. On Sunday, he rushed 22 times for 139 yards.

It's not so much the numbers as much as it is how Murray is going about collecting them.

He's breaking tackles, gaining first downs and closing out games. He's able to run with speed and power and is gaining confidence when he gets the ball.

"You could say that," Murray said. "I think any running back, when you get the ball a few more times, they continue to give it to you until you get in a rhythm and you just get settled in, you definitely have more holes out there."

Murray carried the ball five consecutive times in the late stages of the fourth quarter to seal the deal. Yes, the Cowboys punted with 2:11 left, but holding a 10-point edge and taking time off the clock is the objective in these situations.

Murray did that for Garrett.

Murray is becoming everything the Cowboys thought they had when Marion Barber took over the starting role for Julius Jones a few years ago. When they realized they didn't have it, they cut Barber in the summer and gave the starting role to Jones.

Now, after seeing this for about three weeks, its apparent Jones is a specialty back who still can't stay healthy or make enough big plays to be counted on as a starter. He's missed 15 games because of injuries since he was drafted in the first round in 2008.

Murray had four carries of 10 or more yards and two of 20 or more Sunday. On the season, he has 11 rushes of 10 or more yards and six of 20 or mores.

Jones has compiled three rushes of 10 or more yards and two rushes of 20 or more yards. He is an explosive back too.

At this stage of the season, Murray is the hot hand. Stay with him.

"I'm worried about myself getting healthy," Jones said when asked about his starting job.

Garrett said Murray is playing in a good rhythm at this stage of the season. When asked whether it's hard to take Murray out of his current role, Garrett said the Cowboys would evaluate the situation.

"With Felix coming back, when that happens, we're certainly hopeful to get all the bullets back in the gun as soon as we can and we'll deal with the situation when Felix is able to come back," he said. "We'd like to get both of those guys touches, there's no question about it."

Murray needs more carries than any running back on the roster. It shouldn't be a debate.

"I don't know that we look at it and should look at it that way," Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "It's pretty obvious that he's added a real spark to our running game, but we also saw Felix adding spark to our running game earlier as well."

Jones won't fold the franchise if they give Felix Jones his starting job back. But Murray is the best running back on this team and the coaching staff shouldn't allow somebody else to get the leading role. Give Murray 18 to 20 carries a game. Let Jones get a few carries and take care of some third-down plays.

If the Cowboys have the lead in the fourth quarter, Murray becomes the closer. It can't be that complicated.

And Murray isn't asking to become the starter or anything like that. He's taking the right approach.

"I don't mind sharing carries, 50-50, 30-70," Murray said. "I'm going to continue to help this team."

He should, as the starter.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.