The DeMarco Murray Effect: Felix Jones to start

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
12:15
PM ET
DeMarco Murray won't play against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon because of a sprained foot.

His absence starts a trickle-down affect for the Cowboys.

Felix Jones will now be the starter, moving Lance Dunbar from No. 4 on the depth chart to deep kick returner. It also means Phillip Tanner and/or Dunbar will move to the third-down running back spot.

How many carries Jones will get is uncertain because he's never been a workhorse back for coach Jason Garrett -- he's had just two games in his five-year career with at least 20 or more carries.

In a little over two seasons, Murray has six games with 20 or more carries. Jones has had 22 games with double-digit carries in his career; Murray 12.

It will be interesting to see if Garrett trusts Jones, who has been a backup for the majority of his Cowboys career. He needed an IV during Sunday's game because he was cramping up, perhaps because of his workload. He carried the ball a season-high 18 times and had one catch in the 31-29 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

It appears Jones seems lighter these days, which would explain a renewed burst and quickness, something that was missing early in the season. But as he said Sunday afternoon, he had to be patient and learn to take advantage of his opportunities when given.

This is a big opportunity for Jones. He's in the final year of his contract and, whether he gets one or two games as the starter, Jones gets a chance to display his skills and prove he's more than a complementary running back. There are few NFL teams that use one running back as the primary guy, however the Cowboys are one of them, as evident of the carries for Jones (3) and Murray (61) heading into the Ravens game.

Garrett has said he's always liked Jones and what he brings, but we don't see it enough on the field in terms of carries. Now Garrett has a chance to give it to Jones against one of the worst run defenses in the league.

Carolina has allowed 127.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks 23rd in the NFL. During the Panthers' three-game losing streak, their run defense gave up at least 100 rushing yards in two of the losses.

Does Jones need to get 100 yards against the Panthers? Not really. But he needs to be productive. The same goes for Tanner and Dunbar, too.

Murray's injury changes everything in the Cowboys' backfield. It gives Jones one more chance to prove he's a good NFL player.
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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