The Dallas Cowboys desperately need a breakout season from one of their three running backs and it is likely that person will have to be Felix Jones.
Jones has already been named the Cowboys starter this season, sending Marion Barber back in line.
What has prevented the Cowboys, and a lot of other teams, from using one guy to run the ball? In this article from SportingNews, a panelist of former Cowboy greats were asked five questions about the upcoming season. One question popped out to me as very important:
3. The Cowboys have three good running backs, but they’re screwing up by not featuring one of them
Guilty (5 votes)
Hill: “Felix Jones reminds me of Tony Dorsett. He needs to be the featured back.”
Reeves: “Having been a running back myself, it’s very difficult to get into a rhythm when you’re going in and out. As a coach, I always had a hard time knowing when to put the other guy in. I do think you need one guy you rely on.”
Pearson: “The Cowboys need to make a decision. In my opinion, it should be Felix Jones because of his speed and what he can do with the football. To me, with his body (6-0, 222), Marion Barber could play fullback.”
Not Guilty (6 votes)
Lett: “Emmitt Smith successfully carried the ball in an era when it was common to see a single back carry the load. I’m not sure if there will ever be another Emmitt Smith. These days, guys are getting banged up too often. The league has evolved. … I certainly think the Cowboys should stick to the approach they have now.”
Johnston: “It’s been tough for me to buy into this new formula, but I have because guys now are bigger, stronger, faster. The collisions are just more violent.”
Garrison: “It’s according to what works. When we went to the Super Bowl, we had three running backs — Calvin Hill, Duane Thomas and I — and thank God we did because I got hurt.”
I found each comment to be interesting points from former stars. Is the game really that more violent? Improvements to pads and equipment, including helmets, have gone a long way in protecting players. Back when some of these guys played, they didn’t even have face masks. If it is more violent, does that mean a two-back system is necessary for all NFL teams?
If the Cowboys want to listen, maybe they should re-program the backfield and make Marion Barber a full back. Those who say Barber couldn’t play fullback I will disagree with. I think he can block well and could open holes for Jones, and return to his role as a redzone runner. Even though Barber struggled as a short-yardage runner last year, he did have numerous injuries. Could the Cowboys keep him on the field by returning to an offensive scheme that was used back when Jason Garrett was the backup to Troy Aikman?
If Felix Jones gets injured, then Tashard Choice could replace him or Marion Barber could return to a halfback role, and maybe Choice could block. Choice might be the better blocker of all three in my opinion.