As the Dallas days and nights start heating up, so does the battle in the backfield for the Dallas Cowboys. The team had some great performances in 2009, and that led to a top ten finish in rushing yards. The line had some issues throughout the year, but for the most part did a good job leading the way for the likes of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice. With some considerable injuries occurring over the course of a season, there’s room for excitement in Big D, but with multiple runners capable of taking the lead it could be a sticky situation.
Marion Barber was the starter at the beginning of the 2009 season. After joining the league in 2005, he has steadily improved his numbers in each season. 2008 proved to be a tough year for Barber, as his average and TD’s dropped, but it was also his first year starting.
After becoming the starter two seasons ago, Barber has averaged over four yards per carry, and scored seven TDs per year. Both numbers seem fairly average for a starting running back, but when one considers the injuries he’s been through it’s tough to argue with the production. But on the other hand, what team wants to base their offense around a runner who seems to be injury prone?
With Barber spending most of the '09-’10 season with a torn left quad, the Cowboys were able to tap into their backups for some added production. This was a positive sign to any fantasy owner or Dallas fan, who have been waiting for Felix Jones to get a shot. Jones, the second running back out of Arkansas selected in the 2008 NFL Draft (behind Darren McFadden), has been the epitome of explosive ever since he entered the league.
After spending a first round pick on Jones, the Cowboys got only six games out of him in his rookie season. Although injuries hampered his production as well, he put up an incredible 8.9 yards per carry in those six games. 2009 was a different story though, as Jones was able to stay fairly healthy, totaling nearly 700 yards on the ground and 19 catches. He was tied for the lead with a solid 5.9 ypc in 2009, once again showing his knack for the big play.
So what happens in 2010? It’s tough to make a quick judgment during the offseason, but the team's choice to draft a wide receiver (Dez Bryant) may give us a some clues as to what to expect. With a legitimate number one receiver emerging last season and the addition of Dez Bryant, it’s tough to think Dallas will be running as much as they did in 2009.
Barber was the starter for the majority of the season, but his running style seems better suited for a power-back role, not a 20 carry a game runner. With the explosive nature of Felix Jones’ game, it’s hard to see Barber maintaining much of an every down back role. The Cowboys lacked big plays last year outside of Miles Austin’s occasional grab, and that could be solved fairly simply, by inserting Jones in more of the offense.
Felix isn’t necessarily ready for the grind of running the ball on every play, but his explosiveness is tough to deny. As the Cowboys look to top the NFC, the offense will play a very large role. With Jones taking care of the first and second down duties and providing a spark to the offense, Barber will be able to stick to what he does best.
Barber could turn into a power runner, specializing in the short yardage and goal line situations. This should allow for a big year from Jones with Barber retaining the jobs that would lead to big TD numbers. Although it looks to be another split, consider Jones’ big play ability as a major positive in the fantasy world, as Barber's relevancy dwindles from an every week start to more of a situational player.
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