Marion Barber remains the starter by default

October, 19, 2010
10/19/10
10:22
AM ET
We've gone back and forth on this for the last month. Should Marion Barber be the starting running back?

Yes. No. Does it matter?

The way the Cowboys have structured their running game, Barber is the starter and Felix Jones is the backup. But after a few plays, in comes Jones and Barber switches to the third down and short yardage back.

On the season, Jones leads the team in rushing yards with 229, good for 34th in the NFL. He's averaging 45.8 yards per game, good for 38th.

Barber has been fantastic in his role.

He's nine-for-nine on third-and-fourth and one situations and he leads the NFL with eight first downs on third down.

Jones isn't leading the NFL in anything.

The last two weeks, the Cowboys relied heavy on Jones and he produced no touchdowns out of 43 combined touches. His counterparts the last two weeks, Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson touched the ball 45 times and gained three touchdowns, including a game-winner in the Titans game.

Now it's not all about touchdowns, first downs, setting up second and short situations are also important. Yet, last week, Jones didn't seem to have that burst needed to make him a dangerous back.

Jones needed an IV during the Vikings loss and puked a few times at halftime because he was worn out. Maybe this gives the Cowboys pause regarding Jones' ability to become the full-time running back. Jones' weight is back down. He was 220 now he's about 215.

One NFC scout said Jones doesn't look as explosive but, "Just a tad tight in the hips though. He is their explosive element but doesn't get enough touches in space."

Another NFC scout had this reaction: "He's getting more carries and is hit more between the tackles. He will struggle to make people miss in a short area because of his tight hips. Brian Westbrook has loose hips, Jamaal Charles has loose hips. Felix makes people miss more with his burst and lateral quickness than swivel hips."

The Cowboys should end this silly thing of starting Barber and then sitting him for Jones. It's almost as if it's a ceremonial thing with Barber.

"Yeah, but like I said, it's different situations," Wade Phillips said. "If we were ahead at the end of the game, there you'd see Marion run it a lot."

That is true. It happened when the Cowboys beat the Texans and Barber picked up significant carries in the fourth quarter.

But to start Barber because it's ceremonial is silly. Really.

In the last two games, Barber hasn't started the second half. But he starts the first half. Why?
Why not start Jones?

"Because Marion is our starter," Phillips said. "He has been. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I don’t think it bothers anybody."

We asked Jason Garrett why Barber got a handful of second half carries in the loss to the Vikings and he said, "We’re playing those guys and a lot of its situational. Marion played early in the game and we've let Felix go the last couple of weeks and Marion is playing more on the third downs and coming back and really kinda subbing in on first and second down things."

Barber and Jones don't get upset over the lack of carries, reporters, fans and their teammates wonder about it. Barber is the same player who didn't want to start in 2007 when the team tried to put him ahead of Julius Jones.

But in the NFC divisonal playoff game, Barber became the starter. The next season, Julius Jones was allowed to test the free agent market and Barber signed a new contract to become the full-time starter.

Almost three years into it, Barber still hasn't rushed for over 1,000 yards and Jones hasn't done as much as several players drafted after him such as Rashard Mendenhall, Johnson and Charles.

The Cowboys are not changing the way they do things.

Which is fine, it's their team, but when you're 1-4 and not going anywhere it would seem a change is needed somewhere.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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