Cosell Talks DeMarco MurrayThursday, June 28, 2012
I have been writing about the NFL since I graduated from college seven years ago. Particularly as a Rotoworld writer whose responsibility it was to present the work of others on our aggregative player news page, I have come across many impressive football minds. The reporting of Adam Schefter and Jay Glazer, the film study of Ron Jaworski, the multi-dimensional knowledge of Mike Florio, Gregg Rosenthal, and Adam Caplan. The college-to-pro projections of Mike Mayock.
But no one's analysis, opinions, and evaluations are quite as fascinating or instructive as Greg Cosell's. I'm going to assume you already know a little bit about Cosell because we pass along his work so often on the website. If not, do a quick Google search.
Entering my Thursday morning interview with Cosell, I had planned to do one column discussing five NFL running backs. The interview was finished after 14 minutes, and Cosell provided so much information that I was compelled to turn it into a six-part series.
For the most part, I'm just going to let Cosell do the talking. It's better that way. He speaks incredibly concisely. We first discussed Cowboys tailback DeMarco Murray.
I began by asking for Cosell's general impressions.
"DeMarco Murray ended up playing better in Dallas than I thought he would based on watching his college tape," Cosell acknowledged. "I thought watching him at Oklahoma, he was somewhat of a straight-line guy. Very good downhill when he put his foot in the ground, but pretty much a straight-line runner. And while I wouldn't call him overly shifty or elusive, I thought that he showed much more of that in the NFL.
"And the other thing, which I found really intriguing watching him in Dallas, was I thought he ended up having a little more natural power than I thought, watching his college tape. And I think those two elements -- a little more lateral agility and a little more natural power and strength -- really made him an effective runner. Because there's no question that he has good speed and good short-area acceleration. Clearly, when he put his foot in the ground and got downhill, there was a burst to his game. And you need that, you certainly need that. But I thought those two other elements were things that I did not think he would be able to show in the NFL. Because I didn't really feel like I saw them when I watched him at Oklahoma."
I asked Cosell to expand on his definition of "straight-linish" as it related to Murray, and he explained how either possessing or lacking that characteristic might impact success for an NFL back.
"He's certainly not elusive the way you think of Adrian Peterson as being shifty or elusive," Cosell said of Murray. "Or the way you would think of a guy like LaDainian Tomlinson in his prime, being laterally explosive. He wasn't quite like that. But he showed enough of it. Because you have to be able to do that in the NFL. In the NFL, it's more important for a back to be laterally agile and explosive than it is for him to be fast in terms of long speed.
"There's very few long runs in the NFL where guys run in a straight line. That doesn't happen very much. In the NFL, you must really be able to create space for yourself in confined areas. And the way you create space in confined areas is with lateral movement. And if you can't do that, you have limitations as a runner. And he did that much better than I anticipated based on his college tape."
I asked Cosell how Murray could have suddenly become a laterally gifted runner after failing to show that ability in college.
"Look, I could have misevaluated him," Cosell conceded. "Hey, just because I do this and I think I'm pretty good at it, that doesn't mean that I don't misevaluate players. That's just the way it goes. I'll give you a perfect example, and I think I misevaluated him, too: Donald Brown of the Colts. First-round pick. And I thought he'd be a very good NFL back. And I think the reason he's not become one up to this point -- and I don't think he will become a great one -- is he has not shown that lateral movement. I thought he had it when I watched him at Connecticut. He hasn't shown it in the NFL. So, he's become a guy who, if he doesn't really have room to run based on the blocking scheme, then he doesn't do very much.
"Murray, I thought would be like that. But it's turned out, he's shown the kind of lateral movement where he has been able to create space for himself."
Murray is a popular 2012 breakout candidate after rushing for 897 yards on 164 carries (5.47 YPC) in 13 games with seven starts last season. If Murray stays healthy and continues to run like he did as a rookie, he’ll have every opportunity to fulfill those lofty expectations.
Next up: Redskins running back Roy Helu.