NFC East awards: DeMarco Murray, Offensive Player of Year

NFL Nation reporters from the NFC East -- Phil Sheridan, Dan Graziano, John Keim and Todd Archer -- have crunched the numbers, ran through the analysis, double-checked their notes, and gone with some gut feelings.

This week, they are offering up their NFC East Awards.

Today they bring the division’s Offensive Player of the Year.

There was no debate on who would win this award: Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.

He led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,845. He led the NFL in carries with 392. He set an NFL record with eight straight 100-yard games to open a season. He broke Emmitt Smith’s Cowboys’ records for yards, carries and 100-yard games (12) in a season. He also scored 13 touchdowns and set career highs in catches (57) and yards (416).

Like the Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards, this vote was unanimous. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finished second and New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. finished third.

Now the question is whether Murray will be able to repeat as the division’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2015. He is scheduled to be a free agent in March. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last time the NFL’s leading rusher started the next season with a different team came in 1947, when the Pittsburgh Steelers traded Bill Dudley to the Detroit Lions.

Here is why they voted the way they did:

Phil Sheridan: It was a little depressing after last season, when LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing and Nick Foles had his breakout season, to vote for three non-Eagles for this one. You could make a case for Jeremy Maclin, but there would be a better case for Dez Bryant. Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Odell Beckham Jr. -- it was quite a year for offense in the NFC East. That’s where the Eagles were supposed to be at their best.

Todd Archer: To me there is a difference between being the best offensive player and the most valuable player, which is why Murray got this vote. It’s probably why he received the Associated Press’ Offensive Player of the Year award as well. You just can’t ignore the 1,845 yards, but it was more than just the numbers with Murray. He changed the tone of the team with his running. Yes, the Cowboys’ line was much better, but he was much better in his decision making and understanding when to make sure a run picked up 3 yards and not lost 3.

Dan Graziano: Here’s a case where playing the whole year mattered. It’s amazing that the performance Odell Beckham delivered in only 12 games made him a legitimate candidate for this award, but Murray led the NFL in rushing by nearly 500 yards and helped lead the Cowboys to the playoffs while doing so. He was a largely unstoppable force from Week 1 right on into the playoffs.

John Keim: When someone flirts with 2,000 rushing yards, it’s not difficult to give him this award. Obviously the Dallas line made a big difference, as did the commitment to the run game. And without Tony Romo, this offense is far less scary. But the run game set the tone for the season, helping a defense limited in talent and setting a physical tone.