Tennessee Titans star RB DeMarco Murray hasn’t had the same type of success in his second season in Nashville and the team needs to think about giving him some time off or reducing his workload.
When Tennessee Titans rookie GM Jon Robinson traded a mere fourth round pick for a Pro Bowl running back in DeMarco Murray, the move was received with mixed reactions. Murray was coming off a failed first season with the Philadelphia Eagles, but the cost to get him was relatively low considering he was one year removed from a 2261 yard, 13 touchdown season.
The Oklahoma product’s first season in Nashville could not have gone better. Murray looked reborn in a more traditional (non-Chip Kelly) offense with great run blocking, accumulating 1287 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, while adding 53 catches, 377 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He was a dynamo on offense and earned a third Pro Bowl berth while helping the Titans achieve a 9-7 record, their best finish since 2011.
Going into the 2017 season, the Titans could feel great about the running back position on the roster. They had a Pro Bowler as the starter and a young battering ram with underrated receiving ability in Derrick Henry to back him up. A quicker receiving back could be argued as a need, but Murray’s adeptness as a pass-catcher rendered that need a luxury.
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Then came the offseason injuries Before training camp got started, Murray got surgery on his right ring finger, keeping him out of action for about a month and a half. Once he was ready to go for training camp, he tweaked his hamstring on August 3, which forced the coaching staff to hold him out of the first two preseason games. Murray played in the third preseason game, but didn’t quite look himself.
With two weeks to heal up, Murray was expected to be a full-go for the regular season. He was, getting 18 touches in the regular season opener but gaining only 60 yards with those touches against a mediocre Oakland Raiders front seven. Then came Week 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, when Murray tweaked his hamstring injury and got severely outproduced by Henry, who pounded the Jaguars into submission with Murray out in the second half.
Murray returned for Week 3 and delivered a 75-yard touchdown run against a surprisingly soft Seattle Seahawks run defense. Despite that run, he hasn’t looked even close to the 2016 version of himself this season, and has missed oodles of practice time due to the hamstring and a minor shoulder injury. Now, news has surfaced that Murray is dealing with a knee injury that he battled through in the game against the Baltimore Ravens, where he managed 19 yards on nine carries.
Given Murray’s lengthy injury history, these minor nicks and bruises are concerning, especially the hamstring that appears to continue to bother him. The Titans’ run blocking hasn’t been nearly as dominating as it was last year, but it’s fair to wonder whether all these mounting injuries are affecting Murray and, in turn, the run game. Murray’s 4.1 yards per carry would be the second-lowest mark of his seven-year career and his 6.6 yards per reception would be the lowest.
Despite this, head coach Mike Mularkey is still comfortable with Murray playing through the injuries. The problem with Mularkey’s quote is that Murray hasn’t been all that effective outside of the long run against the Seahawks. Henry hasn’t lit the world up this season, but his 4.3 yards per carry and 7.5 yards per reception are both higher than Murray’s, and he’s looked decidedly better in a multitude of this season’s games.
I’m not a football coach and I know Murray wants to be out there to help his team no matter how his body feels, but his play has hurt the team at times. The Titans need Murray to win games, especially down the stretch during the playoff run, but a hobbled Murray can’t help as much as a fully healthy Henry can. It’s time for the Titans to either let Murray rest or continue to decrease his touches.