Once a week throughout the 2013 season, we will focus upon on a player or matchup that could prove troublesome for the Giants in their upcoming game. This week’s spotlight is on Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.
The Giants’ run defense has been solid all season, but it has taken it up a notch during the club’s four-game winning streak.
In the last four games, the Giants have allowed just 60 rushing yards per contest and 3.1 yards per carry. They have not surrendered a rush of longer than 18 yards in this span.
The Giants’ run defense is a strength, not a weakness.
So why even talk about it?
Here’s why: the Cowboys’ ground game can be a real strength for Dallas’ offense. The Cowboys are far more apt to pass than run — Dallas has rushed 20 times or more in just 4-of-10 games — but they can be a productive running team at times.
With the Cowboys coming off a bye week, the hunch here — and it’s just a hunch — is that Dallas tries to get the ground game a little more involved on Sunday when it faces New York in a pivotal NFC East matchup at MetLife Stadium.
DeMarco Murray (111 carries, 548 yards, four touchdowns) is the Cowboys’ featured back. He racked up 86 yards on 20 carries in the Cowboys’ 36-31 victory against the Giants in the opening week of the regular season.
Murray (6-0, 219) has good size, athleticism and vision. On a 12-yard fourth-quarter rush against the Cowboys in Week One, he started left, cut back right, leaped through a crease between right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau and right tackle Doug Free and streaked upfield for a first down.
Murray has the might to run in-between the tackles and the speed to be dangerous on the edges. The Cowboys will utilize him in the passing game, too; he’s caught 31 passes for 189 yards in eight games.
With two weeks of rest entering Sunday’s game, Murray should be fresh to face the Giants, and he could be one of the game’s X-factors. In three NFL seasons, Murray has shown quite a bit of potential, and he’s produced, too. For his career, he’s averaged 4.8 yards per attempt — a healthy rate for a back with 436 regular-season carries.
This much is certain: the Giants will be challenged by the Cowboys’ strong passing game. Quarterback Tony Romo averages 37 passes per contest, and he has capable receivers all over the field, with wideout Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten the primary targets.
Less certain is how often the Cowboys will turn to the run game. That said, Murray is capable of making the most of even limited opportunities.