Wednesday, November 16, 2011 Updated: November 17, 10:35 AM ET
Felix Jones can still make impact
By Jean-Jacques Taylor ESPNDallas.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Will Felix Jones start? Will he take away touches from DeMarco Murray? Will Jones return kicks? Will he ever share the backfield with Murray? How much will Jones play?
Calm down, people.
There seems to be this sense around Dallas-Fort Worth that Jones' return to the Dallas Cowboys' lineup -- he practiced Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday against Washington -- is somehow going to negatively affect Murray.
Felix Jones won't get as many carries, but he can still deliver explosive plays -- which was the role he was drafted for in the first place.
Murray has the best four-game rushing total in franchise history. For the foreseeable future, his role ain't changing.
He's going to get his carries and touches. Jones, Phillip Tanner and anyone else must get in where they fit in. Jason Garrett made that pretty clear on Wednesday.
Frankly, Jones' return to the lineup is the best injury news Garrett has had in quite a while.
Jones is a niche back, a 6-foot, 200-pound change-of-pace runner who will add a dynamic dimension to the Cowboys' offense. Any suggestion the Cowboys can't use a player with his talent and ability is pure poppycock.
Finally, Jones is poised to have the same role with the Cowboys that he had at Arkansas. You know, when he used to carry the ball nine or 10 times a game after Darren McFadden had softened the defense.
Most times, defenses couldn't handle his combination of speed, acceleration and quickness, leading to big play after big play.
There's no need to make Jones a starter again.
It won't work. Jones simply isn't durable enough to consistently carry the ball 20 times a game. Or even 15.
That, friends, is reality.
There's no shame in that because running back is the game's most physically demanding position. It's the reason most runners fall off a cliff statistically when they hit 30.
Jones missed the last 10 games of his rookie season, and he has missed the past four games with a high-ankle sprain. In four seasons, he has completed one 16-game campaign.
He's carried the ball more than 20 times just once in four seasons; Murray has done it in three of the past four games.
It is what it is -- and it doesn't take a Princeton graduate such as Garrett to figure it out.
Murray is the starter and will receive the bulk of the carries, as he should. But this is a team that has run the ball an average of 27 times the past four games, so there would've been plenty of opportunities for Jones to impact the game. The Cowboys have run it more than 30 times in three of the past four games.
Tanner has been impressive in limited opportunities, but let's not kid ourselves, Jones is the better player. Tanner had 11 carries against Buffalo, which would've been just fine for Jones.
Garrett doesn't really have to change his game plan much as long as the Cowboys don't have to become one-dimensional because of the score.
He can let Murray carry the ball and wear down the defense, and pick his spots to let Jones attack the perimeter with stretch plays and tosses or the middle of the defense with one of the many draw plays the Cowboys use.
Garrett can also use Jones on screens or create plays that isolate him against linebackers, a mismatch worth exploiting any time it occurs.
Say what you want, but Jones has averaged 41.2 yards on his 11 career touchdowns. Six of his touchdowns have been on plays of 46, 49, 60, 71, 73 and 98 yards.
Did you know he has 55 runs of 10 yards or more on just 394 carries? That's one every 7.1 carries.
So let's not act like these Cowboys are so good that Jones is a luxury, because he's not. This team can use as many playmakers as it can get, especially considering its season-long red zone woes.
It needs touchdown-makers.
Jones is a playmaker. Always has been.
We can debate until the end of time whether Jerry Jones should've drafted Felix Jones in the first round -- he shouldn't have -- but it doesn't matter because Felix isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Besides, he's finally positioned to be the player Jerry Jones envisioned on draft day in 2008.
Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.