DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy: Did Chip Make the Right Call?


The Eagles are set to sign the former Cowboys running back and the current NFL rushing champion, DeMarco Murray. This news only comes a little over a week after the Philadelphia Eagles shipped out their star running back and franchise leading rusher, LeSean McCoy. Murray and McCoy are two of the top running backs in the NFL, but did Chip Kelly make the right decision by opting for Murray over McCoy?

Let’s find out.

After trading McCoy, one question that was raised by members of the media after the trade was: “I thought McCoy was a perfect fit for Kelly’s offense?”

Turns out, the type of running back we thought Kelly wanted wasn’t so.

Aug 24, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25) makes a cut after catching a pass during the first quarter of their game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

When you watch LeSean McCoy play, his talent is undeniable, but he dances a lot. McCoy has a tendency to hesitate a bit in the backfield causing him to lose yards in the backfield. While McCoy finished the season as the NFL’s 3rd leading rusher, with 1,319 yards, according to Football Outsiders, McCoy ranked 16th in the league in efficiency yards, with 1,215 yards.

DeMarco Murray lead the league in rushing last season and is a very different type of running back than LeSean McCoy.

Murray is a violent, north-south runner who doesn’t hesitate nearly as much in the backfield as LeSean McCoy. Along with finishing the season as the league’s leading rusher, he also finished as the league leader in efficiency yards, racking up a total of 2,027 efficiency yards, also according to Football Outsiders.

Based on these numbers and the stark difference in style between McCoy and Murray, Chip Kelly seems to want a more efficient running back who is a north-south runner. Along with the stats, Chip Kelly has reeled in another north-south guy in Ryan Matthews.

After the news about the Eagles interest in Murray was leaked, the next question became “I thought Chip wanted a younger running back, rather than a running back over the age of 27?” 

Dec 21, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) carries the ball in the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Murray is 27 years old and he is exactly six months older than LeSean McCoy. The issue with running backs in today’s NFL isn’t so much age, rather the amount of touches a running back has.

McCoy, who has played in the NFL for two more years than Murray, has and has amassed more than 1,700+ touches in his six-year NFL career.

To put that in perspective, Maurice Jones-Drew, who recently retired from the NFL this offseason, finished his career with 2,193 carries.

If we are going to use Jones-Drew as a base line — a player who won the rushing title during his illustrious nine year career — McCoy should have a solid season next year but should start declining fairly soon.

In 2013, McCoy rushed for 1,607 yards with 314 carries, with an average of 5.1 yards per carry. In 2014, McCoy, had two less rushing attempts, 312 to be exact, but he only had 1,319 rushing yards for an average of only 4.2 yards per carry. That is not a good sign for a running back with the amount of touches that McCoy has racked up.

On the flip side, Murray has only been in the league for four seasons and has only touched the ball 1,105 times, which is significantly less than McCoy and more than 1,000 touches less than Maurice Jones-Drew.

That’s a stat that shouldn’t be ignored.

While Murray did have nearly 450 touches last year, his touches will be limited in the Eagles offense.

Sep 15, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (43) runs the ball during the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Eagles won 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles, along with Murray, have Darren Sproles and Chris Polk currently on their roster and bringing in Matthews will spread the wealth a bit more.

Using McCoy’s numbers to predict the amount of touches that Murray will get next season, Murray should get around 350 touches next season, which is about 100 touches less than he got in Dallas.

“But I though Chip Kelly didn’t want to spend the money on a running back?”

As Kelly eluded to in his press conference yesterday, part of the reason he decided to trade McCoy to Buffalo was because of McCoy’s huge cap hit.

McCoy’s cap charge for the 2015 season was set to be $10.25 million, according to Peter King of MMQB — a lot of money for a team with Philly’s cap number.

Murray’s contract is reportedly 5 years, $42 million with $21 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which is averages out to $8.4 million per year. That is significantly lower than McCoy’s cap charge, if those numbers are in fact correct.

So, it looks like Chip Kelly saved money by trading McCoy and signing Murray, as well as getting a running back who seemingly is a better fit for his offense.

As far as past production goes, Murray seems to have another edge.

McCoy was held for under 50 yards or less four times last year and under 100 yards eight times. DeMarco Murray, on the other hand, was never held under 50 yards rushing and was held under 100 yards rushing four times, two of those times coming against the Eagles.

January 18, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) reacts with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) after he intercepts a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) during the first half in the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Against the same teams, DeMarco Murray out-rushed LeSean McCoy by 151 yards and 4 touchdowns. Here are Murray’s and McCoy’s stat lines* vs the NFC West, a division where each team ranked in the top 15 vs the run last season:

  • vs 49ers~ Murray: 22 carries, 118 yards (5.4 YPC) and 1 TD; McCoy: 10 carries for 17 yards (1.7 YPC)
  • vs Seahawks~ Murray: 28 carries, 115 yards (4.1 YPC) and 1 TD; McCoy: 17 carries for 50 yards (2.9 YPC)
  • vs Cardinals~ Murray: 19 carries for 79 yards (4.2 YPC); McCoy: 20 carries for 83 yards (4.2 YPC)
  • vs Rams~ Murray 24 carries, 100 yards (4.2 YPC) and 1 TD; McCoy: 24 carries and 81 yards (3.4 YPC)

The numbers don’t lie. And while the offensive line play can be attributed here, the star power for Murray can’t be denied.

The only issue with the former Cowboys is injuries. He’s only played in all 16 games once — last season, if that’s any consolation prize.

Based on the difference in workload throughout their careers, DeMarco Murray’s fantastic season in 2014, the difference of cap charge between Murray’s and McCoy’s contract, and with Murray seemingly being the ideal running back for Chip Kelly’s offense, trading McCoy and signing Murray seems to be a a very good move by the Chip Kelly and the rest of the Eagles front office.

*all stats are via

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