RENTON – When Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray bolted for 139 yards on 22 carries as a rookie last year in a 23-13 win over the Seattle Seahawks, defensive end Red Bryant wasn’t surprised.
Bryant played against the explosive running back during his days at Texas A&M when Murray played for Oklahoma, so he understood the Seahawks would have a tough task stopping him.
“I knew he was a tough runner,” Bryant said. “I knew he was explosive. And I knew he could be a game-changer. So we didn’t not respect him – he just did a great job that day. It’s our job to make it as tough as possible on him.”
Murray has quickly developed into one of the better runners in the league in only his second season. In the Cowboys’ season-opening win against New York Giants, Murray finished with 20 carries for 131 yards.
At 6-foot and 215 pounds, Murray is explosive enough to threaten the edge of the defense, but also physical enough to run through tackles and pound on defenses. Murray has developed into the first effective, every-down back the Cowboys have had since Emmitt Smith left the team for Arizona in 2003.
“He’s a big man that can run hard,” Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “And he’s got good speed. He’s been effective game in and game out.”
A third-round draft pick by Dallas last year, Murray finished the season with 897 yards on 164 carries and two rushing touchdowns for a 5.5 yards-per-carry average. He started seven games.
Murray’s exploits running the ball helped establish some balance for a Dallas offense that has traditionally relied on quarterback Tony Romo to create the bulk of the Cowboys’ explosive plays.
“He’s definitely a versatile player, there’s no question about that,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “He was that in college when we drafted him, a guy who ran the ball a lot but also showed that he could be effective in the passing game as a blocker and as a receiver.
“He’s a smart football player, so you can use him in different spots, and he really seems to pick things up easily. When you have a few guys like that, you definitely can be more multiple as a result of their knowledge and versatility.”
Seattle, which allowed only 43 rushing yards against Arizona last week, had put together a pretty good defense against the run last season before facing Murray and the Dallas offense.
Specifically, Murray was effective running on the edge of the Seahawks’ defense and bouncing outside, something Seattle defensive players understand they have to do a better job against today.
“You have to come out and hit him,” linebacker K.J. Wright said. “He ain’t going to go down with no arm tackle. You have to put your facemask on him and drive your feet. And you’ve got to gang-tackle him.”
Added Bryant: “We know we have to get his cleats out the ground. We know the way they attacked us; they attacked us on the edges in terms of their blocking scheme. And so they had a real good scheme against us. And so we’re anticipating that it will be similar to that, what they had success with last year. And it will be our job to see if we can respond.”
DALLAS (1-0) AT SEATTLE (0-1)
1:05 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: Seattle meets Dallas for the 14th time. The Cowboys own a 9-4 edge in the series, including winning the past three. The Cowboys won the last matchup, 23-13, at Cowboys Stadium on Nov. 6, 2011.
What to watch: Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said offensive tackle Russell Okung will be a game-time decision because of a bone bruise on his left knee. If Okung can’t play, eight-year veteran Frank Omiyale will start at left tackle. Like Okung, tight end Zach Miller is questionable for today’s game because of a foot issue, but Carroll said Friday that he expects the Arizona State product to play. Running back Marshawn Lynch (back) and receiver Sidney Rice (knee) are both expected to play. For Dallas, center Phil Costa (back), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) and nose tackle Jay Ratliff (ankle) are out for today’s game. Johnson is a Tumwater High and Eastern Washington University product. The Seahawks will celebrate Alumni Weekend by honoring more than 30 former players during a pre-game ceremony today.
The pick: Seahawks, 22-19.
No. Name (position) Ht.Wt.Year
31 Kam Chancellor (SS) 6-3232third
The Virginia Tech product will have his hands full with Dallas tight end Jason Witten.
50 K.J. Wright (LB) 6-4246second
Seattle needs Wright to be a force in stopping the run, particularly on the perimeter.
74 John Moffitt (OG) 6-4319second
Moffitt replaces rookie J.R. Sweezy to stabilize an offensive line that gave up three sacks to Arizona.
81 Golden Tate (WR) 5-10202third
Seahawks are hoping the Notre Dame alum will add explosiveness to offense.
No. Name (position) Ht.Wt.Year
9 Tony Romo (QB) 6-223010th
Romo is 3-0 against Seahawks in regular season – all at home.
50 Sean Lee (MLB) 6-2245third
The former Penn State standout is one of the more underrated players at his position.
77 Tyron Smith (OT) 6-5308second
The USC product is one of the more athletic tackles in the game, but had three false starts against the Giants.
94 DeMarcus Ware (LB) 6-4254eighth
All-Pro had two sacks in the season opener against the Giants.firstname.lastname@example.org eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com 253-597-8437 blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams