Around the NFL

Chip Kelly: DeMarco Murray's workload a valid concern

Armed with the knowledge that All Pro tailback DeMarco Murray was ticketed for free agency, the Dallas Cowboys saddled up their workhorse for the seventh-most carries (436) in NFL history last season.

The Philadelphia Eagles were steeped in the research of excessive single-season workloads -- such as the "Curse of 370" popularized by Football Outsiders -- but opted to sign the 2014 Offensive Player of the Year to a five-year, $40 million contract regardless.

Coach Chip Kelly understands his sports science program won't be enough to stave off the injuries and regression that have haunted backs of Murray's statistical profile.

"I think there is a lot of validity to it," Kelly told The MMQB's Peter King this week. "But how do you manage him going into a season?

"Our plan all along was to get another running back with him. I wanted to have two running backs, and that's why we got Ryan [Mathews]. I don't think you can have a guy carry it 370 to 400 times per season and be successful. We're going to run it a lot -- we always do -- but we'll have more than one guy doing it."

It's an astute approach to utilize Mathews as the "Robin" to Murray's "Batman," allowing the twin downhill, one-cut-and-go power backs to tag-team opposing defenses with little to no dropoff in production.

In fact, the Around The NFL Podcast has repeatedly toyed with the idea that Mathews might just be the more productive of the two backs in Kelly's offense.

Consider the following:

What can we draw from that data?

As a general rule, running backs who fit Murray's profile suffer from disappointing production and/or injuries the next year. Even in the best-case scenarios, the player stays healthy, but still sees his effectiveness wane as a more pedestrian runner.

Murray's background offers two additional concerns.

Prior to last season, he was a fixture in the trainer's room, missing 11 games in three seasons after an injury-prone college career at Oklahoma. Because he's a heavy-contact runner, Murray will always be susceptible to the assortment of knee, ankle and foot issues that have hounded him in the past. Look no further than that dubious medical history for the Cowboys' stance that Murray was simply not a franchise back.

Perhaps just as unsettling, Murray was not the same explosive physical force in December as he was en route to a record-breaking seven consecutive 100-yard rushing performances to open the season. The numbers bear that out as well: Murray averaged 3.9 yards per carry in the final five regular-season games after topping the 4.0 mark in every game from Weeks 1-11.

The Eagles will enter the season with an emphasis on taking control of the line of scrimmage via a dominant ground attack featuring Murray, Mathews and Darren Sproles.

Murray was a great player in 2014. The concern is not that he owes his success to Dallas' road-grading offensive line. It's that he will be outplayed by a fresher, more resilient Mathews in a tandem attack.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down Week 1 of the preseason and kicks off a week's worth of spectacular fantasy insight.

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