Felix Jones Will Offer Welcome Change-of-Pace for Pittsburgh Steelers
According to the official Twitter account of the Philadelphia Eagles, running back Felix Jones has been traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for linebacker Adrian Robinson. Jones was expected to be the No. 4 running back in Philadelphia behind LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk.
In Pittsburgh, Jones will offer a welcome change-of-pace for a Steelers team with question marks at the running back position.
The likely source of this trade is the loss of rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, who is out for six weeks due to a foot injury, per Jay Glazer of FOX Sports. Prior to the injury, Bell was expected to take over as the team's starter.
Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that both Jones and Robinson passed their physicals, thus making the Jones the latest member of Steeler Nation to temporarily replace the rookie.
Felix Jones and Adrian Robinson passed their physicals, so the trade is now official.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) August 24, 2013
So what does this mean?
Jones is likely to be a third-string running back in Bell's absence, serving behind Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. That said, Jones offers Pittsburgh two superior traits to both Dwyer and Redman.
Jones can catch the football and, even through the injuries, possesses blazing speed.
Whenever a trade is completed, specifically one involving the running back position, fans are searching for star value. Albeit logical to survey the potential, the true focus should be on the role that a player will be tasked with executing.
For Jones, that's to serve as a proverbial scat back.
Will Felix Jones bounce back in Pittsburgh?
Jones is a strong player, but he's going to make his money with his speed and playmaking ability in the open field. While his rushing numbers may have gone down in 2012, he has a career mark of 4.8 yards per carry.
A major factor in that statistic is Jones' ability to get outside of the tackles and turn up field.
That was quite evident as a receiver in 2012, as Jones caught 25 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. In turn, Jones set a career-high with 10.5 yards per reception, and should be able to duplicate that number with Ben Roethlisberger under center.
Redman had a similarly strong season as a receiver, picking up 18 passes for 244 yards, but Jones' speed is the clinching factor.
Jones can step in from the start, catching passes and running outside to gain positive yardage. Redman and Dwyer will accumulate more carries, and rightfully so, but Jones is the type of game-breaker that is able to overcome his inconsistencies and still earn a job due to the undeniable upside of every touch.
Even if his opportunities are limited, Jones' ability to serve as a scat back will open up the field for a power-running team that needs all the help they can get.
Finding Playing Time
The most difficult hurdle for Jones to overcome will be finding playing time. Dwyer is Pittsburgh's power-runner, while Redman displayed the ability to make big plays in an equally prolific manner as Jones in 2012.
Even if Jones is the most explosive back on the roster, earning the opportunity to prove himself will be difficult.
Fortunately for Jones, Redman averaged 3.7 yards per carry in 2012 and Dwyer has struggled with his own inconsistencies. While the Steelers fan base is as loyal as any, there's absolutely no way around one simple fact: no one in Pittsburgh's backfield should be viewed as safe.
At any moment, Dwyer and Redman could let the Steelers down—and it's happened before—meaning Jones would receive playing time. Jones' days as a star running back are gone, if they ever existed above of the college ranks, but his time as a pass catching game-changer is still alive and well.
With Pittsburgh's receiving corps ravaged by injuries and departures, Roethlisberger certainly needs the help.
With what projects to be a four-week regular season try out, Jones will have the time to prove himself in practice and in games. If he's able to shine in his limited action, he could overtake either Dwyer or Redman on the depth chart.
Don't hold your breath, but Bell is an unproven rookie who may not pan out as expected. As previously stated, no one in the Steelers' backfield is proven or safe. For that reason, there's no better place than Pittsburgh for Jones to prove his worth and resume his career as a change-of-pace running back.
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