Felix Jones not giving Cowboys boost they expected

Felix Jones was supposed to be unleashed this season. The Dallas

Cowboys were going to find all sorts of ways to showcase his

swerving moves and swift feet.

Maybe it still will happen. But his paltry production is

especially glaring this week because the Cowboys are facing the

big-play running back they could have drafted instead of him:

Tennessee’s Chris Johnson.

Last season, while Jones was backing up Marion Barber, Johnson

ran for 2,009 yards and was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year

by The Associated Press.

Johnson again is among the most productive players this season,

a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. His two

longest gains are 76 and 42 yards; that total of 128 is the same

Jones has, for all his runs and receptions, through three entire

games.

Then again, Jones hasn’t had as many chances. Still backing up

Barber, he’s had the ball a total of 26 times, never more than 10

in one game. He hasn’t scored a touchdown.

”Everyone is in unanimous agreement with the staff, scout and

everyone involved that Felix needs to touch the ball more,” team

owner Jerry Jones said on his radio show this week. ”He’s just too

much of a threat and that was our intention in preseason coming

out, no matter whether he’s getting a chance to be in the running

game, but certainly in the passing game as well. I really look for

you to see a lot more of Felix Jones.”

Jerry Jones is a huge fan of Felix Jones, an admiration that

stems from the running back’s college career at Arkansas, the

owner’s alma mater.

Jerry Jones saw Felix Jones break so many big plays in the SEC

that he expected more of the same in the NFL. So when Felix Jones

was available at No. 22 in the 2008 draft, the Cowboys grabbed him.

Two picks later, the Titans snagged Johnson.

Dallas coach Wade Phillips really liked Johnson, and his speed

”was the best that we had ever seen for a running back, ever,”

Jerry Jones said. However, the Cowboys considered Felix Jones more

of a complete package.

”We liked his vision and we liked his speed and just the type

of individual that he was,” Jerry Jones said. ”His college

coaches at Arkansas told us that you’d have to shoot him to get him

off of the practice field. That work attitude really convinced us

that Felix was who we wanted.”

Jones is no bust. His average of 5.9 yards per carry tied for

the best in the NFL last season. For his career, he’s averaged 6.5

yards per run and 7.2 yards per reception.

But Jones has only started one game. He’s missed 12 more because

of injury. As a result, 10 guys from his draft class have rushed

for more yards than him – and eight were drafted after him.

”Felix has been an important part of our team in a lot of

wins,” Phillips said. ”I thought last year at the end of the year

he was as good as any of (his draft class). Numbers don’t tell

everything. He had what, two 60-, 70-yard runs at the end of the

year? Pretty spectacular.”

The last two years, the Cowboys also used him as a kick returner

to take advantage of his breakaway ability. He averaged 24.2 yards

per carry, with a 98-yard touchdown. He was taken off those special

teams this season because he was going to be featured more in the

offense.

Phillips said Wednesday that could finally happen this week

against Tennessee. Then he changed it to should happen because ”we

can hand him the ball.”

”We’re going to try to do that,” Phillips said. ”As long as

we’re effective, we want to see him carry the ball quite a bit.

You’d like to run it and control the game.”

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett noted that Jones has had two

long plays called back by penalties. He also mentioned that Jones

didn’t get much of a chance last game because Dallas was grinding

out yards, which is Barber’s specialty.

”Just give him different opportunities, he’ll make some big

runs,” Garrett said. ”If you get him out in space, he can make

plays. But he’s also proven he can run it between the tackles and

make plays.”