Felix Jones has had an interesting career with the Dallas Cowboys. Even before he was drafted, Jones had become a hot topic of discussion. While at Arkansas, Jones was one of the most electrifying players in college football. Some scouts and draftniks thought that Jones would be better than his Arkansas teammate Darren McFadden.
Jones entered the 2008 NFL Draft as one of the most controversial players. Some thought he had superstar potential, while others believed he would be nothing more than a running back who had to a limited role.
The Cowboys used their 22nd overall pick on the Arkansas running back, hoping his speed and athleticism would counter nicely with Marion Barber and his physical style. The 2008 NFL Draft featured a strong running back class. We can go back and debate whether Felix was the correct or incorrect pick, but his talent was unquestionable.
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In his rookie season, Jones displayed his jaw dropping talent. The problem was, he only played in six games and missed the rest of the season after tearing a ligament in his toe while recovering from a hamstring injury. In 2009, Jones missed two more games with a PCL injury. In 2010, Felix finally managed to stay on the field for all 16 games.
Health has been a major problem with Felix Jones over the course of his career in Dallas. Football injuries are so unfortunate, but they are just part of the game. It's disappointing because when healthy, Felix is such a dynamic talent, but he has not been able to stay on the field.
If you watched the Cowboys in training camp and the pre-season last year, you will remember that Felix was well on his way to having a breakout campaign. He looked very explosive, and his acceleration through the holes created by the offensive line was amazing. It finally looked like we were going to have a 1,000 yard rusher in Dallas again.
That breakout season never came for Felix in 2011. Instead he suffered shoulder and ankle injuries that put rookie sensation DeMarco Murray into the starting role. We all know what Murray did with the time he had as the lead running back, so I won't bore you with the details. Murray also suffered a broken ankle, and you have to wonder if the Cowboys have health concerns at the position.
Running backs coach Skip Peete filled us in on how bad the shoulder injury really was for Felix last year.
"A lot more than you knew," Peete said. "He really couldn’t raise his arm above his shoulder. Sometimes I was hoping that balls weren’t going to him because he couldn’t extend his arm. He faught through it the whole season and played in a lot of pain and had to get that fixed in the offseason but he’s doing fine now."
Felix should definitely get some props because he played through that injury early in the season. It was the high ankle sprain, not the shoulder injury, that eventually kept him on the sideline for four games.
Entering this training camp, we all knew who the man was going to be for the Cowboys at running back. DeMarco Murray is clearly the present and the future, but that doesn't mean the Cowboys don't need Felix Jones to perform at a high level for them. The problem is, how confident can the organization be with Felix right now? He didn't exactly start off on the right foot when he failed his conditioning test.
Stephen Jones was asked recently about the possibility of bring Felix back, and he didn't exactly show a lot of confidence about re-signing the running back.
"We’re going to see how his year goes and his health issues along the way and see where it works out," Stephen Jones said. "We certainly haven’t ruled out re-signing him, but we’ll see how the year takes us."
You know that Felix has to be feeling the pressure of performing in his contract season, but so far he doesn't seem to be getting too worked up about it.
"Oh yeah, absolutely, but hey that’s with every year," Jones said. "You want to be your best. That just adds an added bonus to it that it is my last year. I want to show what I got. It’s going to be a fun year I believe."
There is an article on NFL.com written by Marc Sessler that suggests Felix isn't performing well in training camp. Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com also believes that Jones isn't looking very explosive. Watkins also points out that maybe some of the injuries Felix has suffered during his career are finally starting to take a toll on his body, and that is a valid point.
Should the Cowboys be worried about Felix heading into the season? He didn't look very good the other night in Oakland, and he dropped a routine pass. I don't think we should place that much stock into one pre-season game and a few practices, but Watkins does have a point. The shelf life for running backs has begun to shorten, but what about Felix Jones' shelf life? Felix is just 25 years old, which is very young, even for a running back.
I don't know if Felix will ever perform at the level I thought he was capable of, my expectations were probably too high for him, but I always thought he was a dynamic talent. This may be the last season for Felix in Dallas, or if he contributes and is willing to accept a reasonable contract, then he could find a role here. We need to see more from him before we can decide if he has lost a step, but it is a valid concern.
Felix is focused on playing the game, and right now that is all you can ask from him.
"I had to cancel out negativity and just focus on what I’ve been doing," he said. "This is what I do for a living. I love it. I just had to go out there and play my game."
Should the Cowboys be worried about Felix Jones? Not yet, but in the back of their mind there must be some concern. I would much rather see Felix stay a member of the Dallas Cowboys because his possible departure in 2013 means that another high draft pick will be leaving Dallas.
I will be watching Felix closely this season and I will also be rooting for him to succeed. I have always thought that Felix would be best in a Darren Sproles type of role. He is consistently improving as a receiving threat, and he has the speed and ability to come in and give defenses trouble. If our running backs stay healthy, we could see a very good tandem consisting of Murray and Jones.