Top Four Reasons Felix Jones Will Start for Dallas Cowboys in 2010
Before we dive into the reasons that Felix Jones should (and will) be the starter in 2010, we must first note that the title of “starter” is rather inconsequential. Nearly every NFL team utilizes two, and often three, running backs nowadays, with the starter sometimes not even receiving the most touches.
Thus, what is essential to the success of Dallas’ offense is not that Felix Jones starts (although we do think that is important), but rather that he receives the lion’s share of the touches among running backs.
Nonetheless, starting Jones brings obvious advantages, four of which we have listed below.
1. Utilizing Felix Jones early would save Marion Barber for 4th quarter duties.
Again, Barber‘s efficiency in the 4th quarter has less to do with whether or not he started, and more to do with his overall touches. In his career, Barber has averaged just 2.8 yards-per-carry on all rushes after his 20th of the game.
Starting Jones is a surefire way to not only more effectively limit Barber’s early-game touches, but also his overall touches for the season. This could improve Barber’s career 3.7 yards-per-carry in December.
2. The Cowboys have been notoriously poor starters in recent years–Jones will change that.
We did a study on the Cowboys’ success on initial drives in 2009, discovering the offense averaged just 5.78 yards-per-play and 1.69 points-per-drive to start the game, compared to 6.45 yards-per-play and 2.30 points-per-drive on all other series.
Jones will aid the Cowboys in coming out of the gate faster. He averaged 6.2 yards-per-carry in 2009, including an incredible 10.0 yards-per-rush on 22 counter runs. This home-run ability is exactly what the Dallas offense needs next season.
3. The first drive contains scripted plays which will allow for more creative ways to get Jones the ball.
Offensive coordinators generally script their first 20 or so plays. This allows them to combine the team’s best plays into a cohesive series. It also lets the offense gain extra practice time on these plays.
This is important because it seems the plays on which Jones flourishes (or could, anyway) are “creative” ones which need to be set up. Initial drives are set up all week and should theoretically contain more counters, end-arounds, screens, and so on–all plays on which Jones could thrive in 2010.
4. Jones is now the team’s most complete running back.
There is simply no doubt about it–Jones is the Cowboys’ best running back. His supposed weaknesses–pass protection and short-yardage running–really are not weaknesses at all. We actually gave Jones a “B+” grade for his short-yardage work in 2009. He converted 5-of-5 short-yardage carries last season and averaged a respectable 4.1 yards-per-carry on runs up the middle. He also, surprisingly, led the team in broken tackles (21), broken tackle percentage (14.4%), and yards-after-contact (3.3 per rush).
Jones displayed marked improvement in pass protection as well last season, yielding just one sack on the season and showing power which was not apparent in 2008.
Overall, starting Jones is the right decision. There is no reason to not put your best players on the field from the start of the game, and Felix Jones is undoubtedly the team’s best running back.