Faceoff: Felix Jones
Andrew Garda: Felix Jones is a dynamic and explosive player who can take it to the house on any play from anywhere on the field. Whether paired with Marion Barber as a jab/uppercut combo or carrying a little more of the load when Barber is out, Jones is the type of player a coach/owner wants on the field because when he is, very good things happen.
We can expect a lot of Jones on the field for several reasons. Let's start at the top and by top I mean owner Jerry Jones. Jerry loves him some Felix - not only has he talked about the prospects of getting him more work this season, there was a point last season where they thought of permanently giving him the starting job. While it didn't happen, Jerry said it was a close call and is still in consideration. Even if he doesn't get the number one slot, to me the very fact they are still thinking about it says they want Felix Jones to get the ball more.
Secondly, Jones has tried to get past the injury bug that has admittedly plagued him by adding some weight. While it does cause some concerns about that hurting his speed and adding to the stress on his body, there's an equal chance it will help his durability by allowing him to withstand the bigger hits he gets in the open field. Also, the added muscle will help him break tackles and get through trash at the line.
Some might point to the fully loaded passing offense as a concern - if Jones is behind Austin, Witten and newly arrived Dez Bryant in the target pecking order, can we really expect him to be productive.
I believe the continued productivity of the passing offense is a benefit to Jones. Sure, he may not get the targets we'd like him to in the passing game but with those weapons, the defense will have to play off the line. The passes he does get will find him with room to start maneuvering before he sees a tackler, and his runs will also see less traffic at the line of scrimmage.
Which means bigger gains as well as less wear and tear on the body since he doesn't need to fight for every yard.
Plus, as amazing as we all think Dez Bryant could be he's a rookie and there is always a steep learning curve. Plus as of press time, he's already hurt, putting him further behind in his development than the team would like. If Bryant is struggling, his targets will find their way back to Jones rather than ineffective Roy Williams or Patrick Crayton.
While there are some questions about Jones' ability to carry a full load as a RB1 for the Cowboys, he will get every opportunity to take that next step in his development as a NFL (and fantasy) back. Even if he doesn't nab that top spot, Jones is the type of player who can put points on the board for you even in more limited snaps.
His floor is very solid and the sky's the limit for him.
Mark Wimer: While Jerry Jones started off 2010 making noise about giving Felix Jones more playing time, I have seen no indication that the coaching staff actually intends to give him more playing time. By all accounts, Marion Barber has looked quick and explosive during OTAs and the beginning of training camp - he played through a torn quadriceps muscle for 13 of 16 games last year, which greatly affected Barber's ability to operate at top speed. Now, he is apparently back to full speed, and looks like he is entrenching himself as the starting RB as of late July.
Also, Jones has never proven to be a durable back who could handle a full-time, featured-back diet of carries. He's played a total of 20 out of 32 possible games during his career, and 138 touches (116 rushes with 22 receptions) during 14 games last year is his career high in action. He began training camp showing up at 218 pounds, having added about 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason, in a bid to bulk up and avoid injuries. However, he also started having issues with swelling in his knee almost immediately as training camp commenced (on July 27th and July 28th). If his knee is swelling just under the pressure of full-speed practices, what will happen to Jones when 245+-pound linebackers start hitting him a full tilt? I simply don't believe that Jones will ever prove himself able to touch the ball 20+ times per game.
I think that Felix Jones will remain a part-time member of the Dallas running-back-by-committee, with Marion Barber starting and ending games and Tashard Choice sprinkled in liberally. The trend in the NFL is to go with rotations at running back, and Jones, Barber and Choice managed to put up the 7th-best rushing total in the NFL last year while working as a tandem. If it ain't broke, don't fix it - I don't think the Cowboys will tinker with a successful rushing attack (unless Barber impresses so much during preseason that HE earns a larger share of the work during 2010).