With DeMarco Murray Shining, Dallas Cowboys Look Like the Class of the NFC East

demarco-murray-st-louis-rams-VS-dallas-cowboysSkeptics have concluded that Tony Romo is nothing more than a turnover-prone quarterback who lacks the ability to come up big when it counts the most. While statistics and the Dallas Cowboys failures in Week 17 over the past two seasons might indicate as much, there is a lot more to it.

The Cowboys running game and offensive line has been downright terrible over the past couple seasons. They ranked 31st in rushing offense last season, averaging just 3.6 yards per attempt and 79 yards per outing. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise then that Romo was sacked 36 times and pressured more than any quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers. While Romo is currently on pace to be sacked the same amount of times this year, the Cowboys’ offensive line has been much better as a pass-protecting unit.

A lot of that has to do with DeMarco Murray‘s emergence as a threat both on the ground and in the passing game. Murray put up 125 total yards against the New York Giants in Week 1 before struggling against the Kansas City Chiefs the following week. He tallied just 25 yards on 12 rushes, but did record five receptions for 49 yards. It’s  not a coincidence that Romo was sacked three times and hit another three times in that outing. It’s also not a coincidence that Dallas lost that game.

Courtesy of ESPN: A Balanced offensive attack only helps romo

Courtesy of ESPN: A Balanced offensive attack only helps romo

Fast forward a week and the Cowboys were back to the ground and pound against a weak St. Louis Rams run defense. Romo put the ball up just 24 times in the Cowboys lopsided 31-7 win. He was only sacked once in that game too. The reason, some may ask? Simply put, Dallas controlled the trenches. Murray tallied over 200 total yards on 29 touches, as he ran through some rather large holes throughout the game.

It is this type of balance that has led some to believe that the Cowboys are the class of a lackluster NFC East.

They now take on a San Diego Chargers team that has struggled against the pass this season, but has performed really well against the run. This will be a really good test for the Cowboys. They’re going to try to get the running game going early, which will enable Romo to pass against man coverage on the outside. If that happens, the Cowboys should have a lot of success on offense. It would also show that they can go up against a good run defense and still have success. If not, Romo will be forced into passing the ball between 40 to 50 times, which hasn’t necessarily been a recipe for success over the past few seasons.

I want to see them show balance on offense. If it happens, Dallas will leave California with a 3-1 record and a stranglehold on the division a quarter of the way through its schedule.

Vincent is the head sports editor at eDraft, co-host of eDraft Sports Radio (which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. ET) and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus. He’s also the news director at PFC and co-host of Football Debate Central with Ryan Riddle every Friday. He’s also a former league-wide featured columnist at Bleacher Report.