Dallas Cowboys: How Will Felix Jones Respond in 2012?

Greg MaiolaSenior Analyst IIMay 19, 2012

The Dallas Cowboys have a good situation at running back. DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones are both capable backs who have shown flashes of brilliance in the past.

In seven starts last season, Murray rushed for 897 yards and nine touchdowns, with an amazing 5.5 yards per carry average. Jones started eight games and rushed for 575 yards and a touchdown, with a great 4.5 yards per carry average.

Both running backs have proven that they can grind for hard fought yards on the ground. At this point in time, Jones is the better receiving back and can make some plays in special teams.

However, after an injury to Jones last season, the rookie Murray stepped up and stole the starting job. Actually, he took off with it. Heading into 2012, it appears as if the running back job is Murray's to lose.

But Dallas still needs Jones to contribute to their offense.

In his four NFL seasons, Jones has averaged a consistent 5.1 yards per carry. In 16 career starts, Jones has rushed for 2,326 yards. He has also caught 102 passes for 800 yards in that time span. Jones has gained a lot of yards through the ground and passing game and is a very good player the Cowboys need in their offense.

But after Jones lost his starting job in 2011, he just hasn't looked the same.

In a Thanksgiving win over the Miami Dolphins, Jones got no carries as a backup. Instead, he was a returner for four kicks and had one pass thrown his way. Obviously, Jones was not thrilled to be a starter, get hurt and get no carries when he returned to form. Even when he did get opportunities he didn't steal the job back from Murray like the way it was taken from him.

But put 2011 in the past.

Jones is entering the final year of his contract and will have a lot to play for in 2012. He should show the Cowboys how valuable he is, but he can also try to earn a big pay-day come March. He knows his role is diminished but how he responds remains to be seen.

But the NFL's all-time leading rusher doesn't want Jones to back away. Emmitt Smith wants to see Jones step up, according to ESPN, and take back what was once his. Jones is a multipurpose player and he can make plays in a variety of ways.

And competition makes everyone better.

If Jones and Murray push each other and both play great football, the Cowboys will have a great situation. Whichever back they put into the game will be hungry and willing to fight for every yard to prove their worth. Both Jones and Murray have a lot of value to provide the Cowboys, but they must battle it out in training camp to see who gets the workload on Sundays.

So the job looks like it's Murray's to lose at this point in time. Jones can either accept his role as a backup and try to prove himself for free agency. Or, he can step up and compete for carries. He has shown that keeping him on the bench hurts the football team and has proven to be an electric player.

The choice is up to Jones. Nothing will be handed to him based on his past success. He must come into camp in shape and with a chip on his shoulder. The Cowboys are primed for success and maybe a reemergence of Jones puts them over the edge in 2012.