1. Demarco Murray (RB-PHI)
Demarco Murray was a serious MVP candidate in 2014, thanks to a stellar campaign that nearly pushed the Cowboys to the NFC title game. Thanks to his numbers (1,845 yards, a league-leading 13 TDs and 77 missed tackles by defenders, the second best mark in the NFL behind Marshawn Lynch), Cowboys’ opponents were forced to focus on Dallas’s running game, allowing quarterback Tony Romo to throw to Dez Bryant at will. The balance of Dallas’s offense, due in part to the league’s most stalwart offensive line, catapulted a once injury-prone Murray into another stratosphere.
This success, unfortunately, came at the cost of a league-high 392 carries, a workload that could very well ravage a promising back. Nearly every running back who equaled or eclipsed Murray’s carries total has declined.
Having traded away LeSean McCoy, the Eagles rewarded Murray with a five-year, $42 million contract, with $21 million guaranteed. Murray, now a centerpiece in head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense, will be lucky to reach 1,000 yards rushing, let alone mirror what he accomplished in 2014. Given these troublesome figures, the Eagles additionally signed former Chargers’ tailback Ryan Mathews as insurance.
Looking to dethrone the Cowboys and fight off the Giants in a hotly contested NFC East, the Eagles are relying on Murray to be healthy and productive, something he has not done in consecutive years, especially given the state of quarterback Sam Bradford’s knees, operated on twice in light of brutal ACL tears. The way many outside observers see it, the Eagles are setting themselves up for failure.
Can Demarco Murray replicate his 2014 form and lead the Eagles back to the playoffs? History is very much not on his side.