Clearly, Felix Jones has gone missing. I’m not sure who the player wearing jersey #28 is on the team, but it can’t be Felix.
At one time, the Dallas Cowboys were so confident that he was ready to be their feature running back that they parted ways with Marion Barber. Then, he sustained a high ankle sprain in week 6 of the 2011 season against the New England Patriots. He was replaced by DeMarco Murray against the Rams in week 7 and we all know how that went. Welcome to the NFL Mr. Murray! Two hundred and fifty three yards later, Tashard Choice was waived and Felix Jones became the backup.
To his credit, he handled that transition very professionally. He was used as a “change of pace” back, to give Murray a few plays off, and as a receiver on 3rd downs. And, when Murray’s season was ended prematurely against the Giants, Felix stepped back into the starter role and did an admirable job. Many around the league were excited about the prospect of having both players healthy and available this year. During the off season, we even saw some tinkering with both players in the backfield at the same time – a scary thought for most linebackers in pass coverage.
Then, Felix reports to training camp out of shape and fails the conditioning test – a test as a 5th year professional, he had to know was coming. As a result, he missed nearly an entire week of training camp. More red flags surfaced when in the first preseason game in limited action against the Raiders, Felix’s stat line was 2 carries, 4 yards, and one very bad dropped pass. Okay, so he was still a little rusty and he looked it!
Then, last Saturday against the Chargers, Felix got a little more playing time but the results were not a whole lot better: 3 carries, 10 yards (8 on 1 carry alone where he tripped and fell forward) and 1 reception for 3 yards. Plus, another badly dropped pass. On the one completion, it was third down and he caught the ball in the flat, looked to be able to easily pick up the first down but was stoned by a single tackler (the DB no less) a yard short. Where is the speed and elusiveness we’ve come to expect out of Felix? So far, he’s been described as “sluggish”. It’s a contract year for him but he seems to be completely unmotivated.
Jerry Jones came out yesterday and scoffed at the idea that Felix’s roster spot might not be secure. Is that because Felix has earned his spot or because Jerry was the main reason they drafted Felix Jones out of his alma mater, University of Arkansas (ahead of Mendenhall by the way)? That “security” coming from the man who signs the checks certainly isn’t going to help motivate Felix. Which of our promising young running backs is going to get cut or end up relegated to the practice squad so Jerry doesn’t have to look like he made another draft error?
Don’t misunderstand my point – I think Felix is very talented and the Cowboys are no doubt going to need him this season. A quick review of DeMarco Murray’s injury history in college (and the NFL so far) would support that contention. I’m not making the case that he should be cut (trading him at this point would be pointless too). I may be disappointed in him this season so far, but I don’t think (yet) that he isn’t salvageable. But, the Cowboys need to find out where the effective, motivated, fast, elusive player they drafted originally has gone and get him back! And fast!
Here are a couple of other interesting thoughts (at least to me):
1. Did everyone see the draw play early in the Chargers game where Bernadeau got knocked into the backfield and DeMarco Murray actually ran untouched between him and the man he was blocking? I’ve watched a lot of football in my time, but I can’t recall ever seeing that before. It’s like they were so focused on each other that they ignored the guy with the ball. Nifty move DeMarco!
2. Great to see the defense getting some turnovers. Brandon Carr is living up to the hype. But, I have to be honest. His first interception against San Diego looked like he was beaten. I know it is being spun by him and some of the media as him “baiting Rivers into thinking his man was open” but if that ball had been thrown in front of Meachem, I think he’s off and running. It wasn’t so it counts for us. But, I’m not quite ready just yet to put Carr and Deion Sanders in the same sentence (wait, I just did…dang it).
3. Kevin Ogletree looks to have a solid lead towards being the #3 receiver (or #1, #2, and starting TE if we don’t stop the injury roll we’re on). While he certainly made some good catches in the Charger game, I also noticed that on several occasions he was lined up in the wrong spot and had to be directed by Romo on where to go. On another play, he and Dez Bryant ended up in the same spot in the end zone – typically a sign that someone ran the wrong route and my money is on Ogletree. The Cowboys are just lucky that both he and Bryant were not injured on that play. That in my mind has really always been the issue with Ogletree – he can run and catch the ball. But, unless he lines up in the right formation, makes the same read as the quarterback, and/or runs to the spot the quarterback is expecting him to be, he is useless. Romo doesn’t trust him.
4. Finally, Dez Bryant may have his issues, but did you see the one-handed catch he made in the back of the end zone? Wow! And, despite being nullified by another bad penalty, he did look like he got both feet down. A “real” ref would have made the correct call. If he can stay healthy and stay on the field, Dez is poised to have a breakout year - a Calvin Johnson type of year. You read it here first! Go Cowboys!