Thomas Jones, running back for the New York Jets, is defying logic. When running backs reach the age of thirty, they are supposed to be worn out and beat down. Not Thomas Jones. The thirty-one year old is quietly putting together the best season of his career.
Through seven games of NFL season, Jones has 609 rushing yards (4th in the NFL) on 122 attempts with 7 rushing touchdowns. His 4.9 rushing yards per carry are second only to Adrian Peterson (minimum 100 attempts). Numbers that running backs in their prime put up, not running backs over thirty.
Don't get me wrong, there have been some really good seasons by older running backs. Just look up Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis in 2004, but if Jones maintains all of his averages over the next nine games, it will be his best season to date in every major statistical category. His previous best was last year, when he lead the AFC in rushing yards and scored 13 rushing touchdowns. The most he had in a season before that was 9 rushing touchdowns for the Bears in 2005.
Don't think it's that impressive? If you compare him to other thirty-something running backs, like Edgerrin James, Shaun Alexander and Ladainian Tomlinson, they don't come close to the level Jones is playing on. James has 108 yards on 40 attempts with the Seahawks and although Alexander doesn't have a team this year, he had a total of 24 yards last year for the Redskins. Tomlinson has only played in four games this year gaining a total of 211 rushing yards on 61 carries. That's 3.5 yards per attempt, 1.4 yards less per attempt than Jones and the younger Tomlinson has one running touchdown compared to Jones' seven.
You can argue that he has a better offensive line or that the Jets played weak run defenses, but it shouldn't get any more difficult for Jones. Six of the final nine teams on the Jets schedule are in the bottom half of the league against the run (NE-22nd, CAR-23rd, BUF-32nd, TB-29th, IND-17th, and ATL -19th) and with the injury to Leon Washington, Jones will be carrying more of the load.
Next up for Jones and the Jets is the Miami Dolphins and the fourth ranked rushing defense. When these two teams met in week five of the season, Jones only ran for 42 yards, but he scored twice in the 31-27 loss. This Sunday will be a measuring stick, a way to see if Jones really has taken a sip from the fountain of youth and can continue his dominance on the ground. Only time will tell, but if Jones' future is anything like the career we have seen so far, it will only get better.