Dallas Cowboys Running Game: Making a Starting Case for Each Running Back
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When the 2011 NFL season starts (if it ever does) the Dallas Cowboys will have some major decisions to make regarding their backfield. They currently have Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice on their roster.
Barber has fallen out of favor with management and the fans since signing a huge deal a few years ago, and now there have been many rumors out there that state once the lockout ends he could be cut or traded. The questions that surround Felix Jones concern his durability. Last season was his first since entering the NFL that he did not miss any time due to injuries. Finally, the only question surrounding Tashard Choice, who seems to be a fan favorite, is whether he can carry the load that comes with a starting NFL running back.
All three could easily start on this team and on some other teams in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys need to figure out who it is and stick with him.
The Barbarian was once considered the hardest runner in the NFL but he has been anything but that since signing his huge deal after his first and only Pro Bowl selection. I personally was a huge fan of this guy he was always a guy you could count on to never give up and always give his all. It seems that the money has gotten to Barber's head and he has not even sniffed the type of success he once had. From 2005 to 2007 Barber ran for 2,000 yards and scored 29 touchdowns, since then he has ran for 2,000 yards and only 18 touchdowns. Last season he ran for a pedestrian 374 yards and four touchdowns, all of which were career lows.
Barber seems to have fallen out of favor with the coaching and management. Rumor was that he was in some hot water with head coach Jason Garrett over what he wore getting on the team plane. There is no denying the talent he has; if someone can get in his head and straighten him out he could easily be the starter. Marion was once arguably the most feared runner in the NFL not caring about his body or anyone else.
For Barber to stay with the team and retain his starting position he would have to come into the season with a whole new mindset. He has the tools to get his job back, but he needs to show it. Towards the end of the season he was playing with more energy and drive. If Barber starts training camp like he ended last season there is no doubt he could become the starter again. If Barber does not become the starter and does start with the team, look for them to use him back in a "closer"-type role in the fourth quarter.
Chances To Start for Barber: Five Percent
The most intriguing player in the Cowboys organization might be Felix Jones. He was selected in the first round and is a player we have not seen the best of yet. Fans and everyone in the Cowboys organization have been waiting for him to break out and last season might have been the start of something beautiful.
He had career highs in rushing yards and receiving yards, but unfortunately only scored two total touchdowns. He is lighting fast and can break away from defenders in an instant. Also, he vastly improved in the receiving game, which has only made him more valuable and dangerous.
Coming into the season I would have to say that he is the heavy favorite to start. He helps spread the field and takes pressure off of guys like Jason Witten and Miles Austin. With him in the backfield it will make opposing defenses always keep a guy or two on him to slow him down and keep him contained. His ability to turn the corner off sweeps makes him extremely dangerous. He must improve his pass blocking because he could become a liability if he does not.
If Jones becomes the starter I would have to say he could be a lock to rush for his first 1,000-yard season—if he can stay healthy of course. Jones could have a breakout season like LeSean McCoy had this past season with the Eagles.
Chances To Start for Jones: 85 Percent
Tashard Choice has become a fan favorite the last two seasons and rightfully so. Whenever he has been thrust into action he has performed at a high level. I personally would not mind if the Cowboys named Choice the starter. This guy just loves football and loves this team and, to be honest, I think he has gotten the short end of the stick.
Jerry Jones came out and said that he was not receiving playing time at running back because he was not performing well in kickoff coverage...I am not buying it. Choice has become a player that you know will deliver and to see him rot on the bench has really gotten to me.
In games Choice has started he has performed as well as Barber and Jones, if not better. This past season he started one game, which came against the Colts, and all he did was rush for a cool 100 yards and a touchdown in a big win over one of the top teams in the NFL. If you want a good example of what this guy can do just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his first NFL start in 2008 he torched the dominant Steelers defense, rushing for 88 yards and catching five passes for 78.
Like I said before I would not be mad if Garrett decided to start Choice this season. He gives everything he has on every play and he loves the Cowboys like they were his own flesh and blood. If you don't believe me just watch Tashard's pregame speech his senior season at Georgia Tech.
Chances To Start for Choice: 30 Percent
Whoever is named the starter will have to perform and perform quickly because Garrett has shown that he will not tolerate being average. If Jones is named starter and does not perform it would not surprise me to see Choice or Barber start the next game. Garrett will do anything to get the competitive juices flowing within his stable of running backs.
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