Felix Jones Making the Most of His Touches in Dallas
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Although he only carried the ball 15 times, Jones carved up the Titans defense to the tune of 109 yards on the ground, giving him 7.3 Y/A for the game, his highest regular season average with at least 10 carries.
An above-average receiver out of the backfield as well, Jones connected with Tony Romo on four different occasions against the Titans, as his four grabs were the most by a Dallas back since he and Marion Barber did it in Week 16 of last season.
Even though he failed to reach the end zone Sunday, the former first-round pick remains a threat to score every time he touches the ball, one of the major reasons that the Cowboys need him to be more involved in the offense.
Forever in the shadow of fellow 2008 first-round picks Chris Johnson and Rashard Mendenhall, Felix is looking to carve out his own niche in the NFL. While durability concerns make it hard to envision him as an every-down back, Jones' game-breaking ability at the tailback meshes perfectly with the Cowboys' high-octane, pass-oriented offense.
After two years toiling behind Barber, Jones was handed the starting running back job coming into this season. Plagued by a nondescript preseason and an inauspicious start to the year, Jones had a difficult time getting into a rhythm at running back, as he watched Barber swoop in and steal the majority of his carries during the season's first three games.
Instead of building on his spectacular end to last season, which saw him average around 15 touches a game over his last five contests, Jones has seen his role diminish in Dallas' offense.
Despite Jones averaging 6.3 yards per touch for his career, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has used him sparingly so far this season, a head-scratcher considering his large role in the Cowboys' offense down the stretch and in the playoffs last season.
Coming off their Week 4 bye, Garrett and head coach Wade Phillips expressed their intent to get Felix more touches so that he would be more acclimated in the offense.
"We can hand him the ball a little bit more, so we're going to try to do that," Phillips said. "As long as we're effective, we want to see him carry the ball quite a bit."
True to their word, the Cowboys coaching staff gave Jones opportunities to make plays Sunday, and he rewarded their faith.
With the ability to run both in between and outside the tackles, Jones, a natural playmaker, broke off runs of 20 and 34 yards against Tennessee, displaying great speed and vision with the ball in his hands.
A difference-maker when he gets touches, Felix Jones can be a major component of the Cowboys' offense if utilized correctly. His combination of speed, strength, and versatility makes him a matchup nightmare for defenses, no matter where he lines up on the field.
Hopefully Dallas will be able to continue to feature Jones on occasion just like the Chiefs do with Jamaal Charles, allowing him to take some of the heat off Tony Romo and the passing game.
Sitting two games back in the NFC East, the Cowboys will play the division-leading New York Giants twice over the next five weeks in the hopes of gaining some ground in the standings. Despite a brutal schedule going forward, Dallas must at least split their series with the G-Men and then string together a slew of victories in order to compete for an NFC playoff spot.
For Jones, it must feel good to finally play football on a consistent basis once again.
"We love Felix Jones," Garrett said. "He's going to get plenty of opportunities as the season goes on. ... Different opportunities have come for different guys. We talk about that with the players all the time."
Jesse Paguaga is a regular contributor to Baseball Digest. He writes as an intern on the Bleacher Report website. Jesse writes for Gotham Baseball, along with Gotham Hoops and Gotham Gridiron. He can be reached at Paguaga@usc.edu and can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@JPags77).
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