Unlike the quarterback position, NFL teams can withstand the loss of a running back mid-season and still have success. For the first time since being drafted in the first round of the 2008 Draft, Felix Jones will have the opportunity to be the No. 1 back on the Cowboys’ depth chart. After three years of limited action, Jones is poised to be ‘the man’ in Dallas’s backfield. Dallas Cowboys fans should feel nothing but excitement about the possibility of the running game being vastly improved in 2011.
Ever since Jones missed the final ten games of his rookie year, the concern with the former 22nd overall pick in the ‘08 Draft was whether he’d be able to withstand the physical rigors of being a workhorse type running back that rushed the ball 250 times or more. Perhaps wanting to make sure they got some value and productivity out of Jones, the Cowboys limited the former Arkansas product to 116 and 185 carries in ’09 and ’10 respectively.
With just one year left on his rookie contract, now is the time to see if Jones can hold up as the No. 1 back. If he breaks down and endures an unfortunate injury, so be it. As mentioned, you can plug and play at the running back position much more easily than you can at QB, wide receiver or offensive line.
The path is now clear for Jones to assume the starting duties with Marion Barber’s signing in Chicago. Tashard Choice, who looked like he might supplant both Barber and Jones during his successful rookie campaign in ‘08, injured his calf in the first practice of training camp and has yet to return to practice since. Choice and DeMarco Murray, the team’s third round selection in April’s Draft, are both expected to return to practice next week.
Jones feels ready to capitalize on his first real opportunity as an every-down back in the NFL:
“Everybody has their competition level where they want to be the best,” Jones said. "Obviously, I want to be the best player and I continue to keep thinking like that and I want to compete and be better in my craft. That’s how I look at it.
“Ever since I got drafted, really ever since I got to Arkansas, I’ve been trying to do what I can do on the field,” Jones said. “Every opportunity I can get, I try to maximize it any way. That’s how I look it. Just go out there and show what you got. Do your best and don’t worry about being compared to who.”
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