Cowboys position series: Running backs
February, 9, 2010
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireFelix Jones emerged as the top runner for the Cowboys.
The second in a series looking at each of the Dallas Cowboys’ position groups:
Players: Marion Barber (signed through 2014), Felix Jones (signed through 2012), Tashard Choice (signed through 2011), Deon Anderson (signed through 2010)
What went right: The Cowboys accomplished their goal of becoming a top-10 rushing team, ranking seventh in the NFL with 131.4 yards per game. Their average of 4.8 yards per carry was tied for second behind the Tennessee Titans.
Felix Jones missed a couple of games with a sprained knee, but he showed at the end of the season that he’s capable of carrying a heavier workload than he had. Jones had double-digit carries in the final six games, including the playoffs. His 16-carry, 148-yard, one-TD performance in the playoff win against the Philadelphia Eagles provided a glimpse of a back with star potential.
Tashard Choice also excelled when given opportunities. His average of 5.5 yards per carry was only slightly lower than Jones, and Choice proved that he can be a dependable third-down back.
What went wrong: Marion Barber had significant health concerns and fading down the stretch for the second consecutive season. He hasn’t provided much bang for the buck after signing a seven-year, $45 million contract.
Barber’s struggles in short-yardage situations are a serious concern. If he doesn’t get stuffed on three consecutive goal-line plays against the Chargers, the Cowboys might have won that game and earned a bye in the playoffs, meaning they wouldn’t have had to travel to Minnesota.
Choice has been a team player, but he’s frustrated that he doesn’t have a larger role. He had only 64 carries in the regular season – and no more than four in any of the last 11 games.
What’s next: The Cowboys have interesting decisions to make this offseason.
The easy decision is to make Jones the lead horse. With the Cowboys’ depth at tailback, he doesn’t need to be a workhorse, but Dallas has to get its most dynamic player about 15 touches per game. He’s a major part of this franchise’s future.
Does Barber come back? He’s due a guaranteed $3.8 million bonus, but the Cowboys might be better off with Jones and Choice sharing carries. Barber is only 26, but the bruising runner appears to already be wearing down.
If the Cowboys keep Barber, Choice could be trade bait. It’d be tough to turn down an offer of a second- or high third-round pick for a No. 3 back.
If either Barber or Choice is gone, the Cowboys will likely draft a tailback in the middle rounds. Considering their recent track record – Barber and Choice were fourth-round picks – that wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.
Anderson’s job is in serious jeopardy after his recent arrest at an Addison bar and restaurant, resulting in a misdemeanor deadly conduct charge. Owner/general manager Jerry Jones said last week that he had not talked to Anderson yet and didn’t see it as a priority. Tight end John Phillips proved he could play fullback last season, and the Cowboys can find a traditional fullback in the late rounds if they wish.