Can Felix Jones shoulder Cowboys' load?

Posted Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011  comments  Print Reprints

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IRVING -- Felix Jones played the part of Santa Claus on Tuesday, taking underprivileged children from southern Dallas on a shopping spree at Walmart.

Now, if only he can deliver the Cowboys another 100-yard game.

DeMarco Murray had three 100-yard games in his 13-game rookie season. Jones has only four 100-yard games in his four NFL seasons, though one came last week against the New York Giants after he replaced Murray.

Murray went on injured reserve Tuesday after having surgery to repair a fractured right ankle. He finished his first season with 897 yards and two touchdowns on 164 carries.

Yet, the Cowboys insist they have faith that Jones can pick up where Murray left off.

"He's been a dynamic player for us over the last three or so years," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We've just got to give him opportunities. The run game, like everything on offense and really everything on your football team, is a team thing. You have to block well upfront, at the tight end position, at the receiver position, the fullbacks are involved. The coach has to call them at the right time, call the right stuff. Hopefully, we can do all that, and he can be the feature back again."

Though Jones has been the team's starting running back, he rarely has been the feature back. He shared carries with Peyton Hillis and Darren McFadden at Arkansas and has had Marion Barber, Tashard Choice and Murray with him in Dallas.

"When I stepped foot in this league and this organization, it was to prove I can handle it, to prove myself as a running back," said Jones, the 22nd overall pick in 2008. "Whatever comes for me, I'm ready for it. I'm going to give it all I've got."

Jones has had an injury history, with toe, hamstring and knee injuries keeping him off the field at various points in his career. It was a high-ankle sprain that cost him his starting job as Murray replaced Jones against St. Louis and set the team's single-game rushing record in his first start.

But the Cowboys find themselves needing Jones to play like Murray.

"As far as his ability to step in and be the lead guy, he is ready to do that," Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete said of Jones.

Jones said he learned a lot from watching Murray.

"He is an explosive runner," Jones said. "He is getting downhill; he is getting yards with every step; he is a tough runner. That is what I like to see. It shows me maybe I need to run a little tougher. I learned a lot from that guy."

With 34-year-old Sammy Morris, who was signed this week, as the only backup, the Cowboys might have to stop counting Jones' touches and start counting their blessings that they have a proven veteran behind Murray.

In the seven games Murray started and finished, he had 22.1 touches. That included only nine touches against the Philadelphia Eagles when the Cowboys fell behind early.

Jones has averaged 15.6 touches in his 13 career starts.

"He's always been a complementary back when he was at Arkansas," Garrett said. "He played with McFadden and Peyton Hillis and those guys. But they made sure they got him his touches. We've tried to do that here, and we've tried to inch him up as much as we can as he's gone. I think he's proven to us he can carry the ball more, and we can throw it to him more.

"I think he proved that again the other night in the ball game. He went into that game thinking he was going to be a third-down guy, and spotting on first and second down, and he carried the load and did a really nice job for us. So again, we have a lot of confidence in him."

Charean Williams


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