So far, Felix Jones's season has been defined by his fumbling away of the opening kickoff in the loss to the Seattle Seahawks. It was a hell of a way to start the game and an even worse way to make a contribution to the team. But so far, entering this weekend's contest against the Baltimore Ravens, there is nothing charitable about his overall contributions to the Cowboys.
Jones, now in his fifth season as a Cowboy, seems to be on a fast track to regression since being selected in the first round of the 2008 draft. After a rookie season cut short by injury, the future still looked bright for Jones. He enjoyed solid 2009 and 2010 seasons in which he compiled 1,485 yards rushing, 569 yards receiving and five touchdowns combined in those two campaigns while sharing time with Marion Barber.
The numbers weren't stellar but the consensus among Cowboys nation was that Jones was progressing into the featured running back in Jason Garrett's offense. The premise for drafting Jones in the first place was to get that explosive, change of pace back that would give the Cowboys a home run threat at any time. And with Jerry Jones the GM calling the shots, this was his draft pick.
Last season, Felix Jones was the starting running back before sustaining an injury against the New England Patriots. That led to the birth of DeMarco Murray as the new starting back and the ongoing debate between cutting Jones and trading him. So after surviving the offseason, training camp and now four weeks of the 2012 season, the question is: Why are the Cowboys still committed to Jones when he has given the Cowboys zip, zilch, nada?
Well, let's outline the facts for a second. After coming off a 2011 season which he amassed 575 yards rushing, 221 yards receiving and a whopping one touchdown, he underwent surgery during the offseason. Once he became a camp participant and was cleared for full practices, he showed absolutely nothing in the preseason. Nothing!
At the same time, the Cowboys discovered that Lance Dunbar can really play and also display the same type of attributes that Felix Jones once possessed. But management dug in their heels and declared that Jones was safe since he has been such a wonderful player for this franchise. Excuse me while I vomit all over myself. Has anyone noticed what Chris Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, Jamal Charles and Matt Forte have done in comparison to Jones?
It's nice to look back at Jones's rookie season and think back to that 98-yard kickoff return or scoring touchdowns in his first three games or having a couple of 100-yard rushing performances here and there, but what about not being able to stay healthy or making defenders miss? What about 13 yards rushing, 68 yards receiving, zero touchdowns and a non-factor on kickoffs through the first four games of 2012?
Jerry, are you breathing? Should we get the defibrillator? Or does Felix have blackmail on you?
It might be hard to let go of a 25-year-old running back that could very well have good football left in him but the Cowboys have been living in mediocre times for a very long time. Say what you want about windows closing but hanging onto a player like Jones could practically nail it shut. Part of me likes Jones and wants to see him succeed but numbers don't lie, people do. And Jerry Jones is lying to himself.
Felix Jones has played only one full 16-game season, he missed much of this past offseason after shoulder surgery and injuries have been a recurring theme throughout his brief career. The bottom line is that right now, at this juncture in his career, Felix Jones is nothing more than a spare part for this team. There are problems that exist on this team unrelated to him but for how little the Cowboys ask of him, he has been unable to deliver one significant, positive play to date.
This is no longer the player that burst onto the NFL scene with an 11-yard touchdown on his very first carry, or the one that had that 98-yard kickoff return I mentioned earlier, or the one that averaged 9.9 yards per carry as a rookie before getting injured. Gone are the burst and explosive elements to his game that we are used to seeing, replaced by slow, methodical kickoffs and useless off-tackle runs.
Even when he has been given an opportunity on third down passing situations, Jones has not been able to make defenders miss or help sustain any drives. With an offense already sputtering out of control both in the running and passing games, this team is in need of a spark. So is he part of the problem or part of the solution?
What stands out to me more than that question is how Jones even warrants the type of commitment the Cowboys are currently devoting to him when he isn't contributing. With Philip Tanner and Lance Dunbar ready for bigger roles, I think the Cowboys need to revisit that commitment before they spiral into an abyss and fall further into mediocrity.
The whole situation is quite perplexing.