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Julius Jones faces the crossroads

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Wake up the neighbors, somebody is actually writing articles on the Cowboys again over at the DFW S-T! (As an aside, I'm offering my services free of charge to write about the Cowboys for the Star-Telegram whenever their whole staff decides to take extended vacations). Back to the point, Mac Engel drops a little knowledge on us about Julius Jones that cuts to the heart of the issue.

I can't remember who it was, but someone here at BTB pointed out a very salient fact about JJ. When he's on, he's as good as any back in the league, but when he's not on, he disappears faster than Ricky Martin's career. This is a major problem, especially when Bill Parcells is at the helm. Parcells demands consistency and durability from his players, something JJ has failed at so far in his time with the Cowboys.

This isn't shocking news to anybody who's followed the Cowboys over the last couple of years. But Engel gives us some stats that really puts it in perspective.

The Cowboys are putting their faith in Jones because of four brilliant games in which he rushed for nearly 40 percent of his career yardage and more than 60 percent of his total touchdowns.

In the remaining games, he's been OK.

That's the frustrating part about Julius Jones. When you watch him in those four games - Bears, Seahawks and Giants in 2004, Panthers in 2005 - you drool over his skills. He can decimate a defense; the game against Seattle on Monday night in 2004 was one of the best performances I've ever seen. But if you throw out those four games he averages around 73 yards per game. Combine that average with his durability issues and you have a very average running back.

Now we enter 2006 and it looks like a make or break year for JJ in Dallas. You can't continue to rely on a back that you can't rely on; whether it's because of injury or maddening inconsistency. JJ needs to prove to everybody that he's worthy of being the featured back for Dallas, a workhorse who can chew up the yards needed to run a Parcells' style offense.

There is a sense at Valley Ranch that Jones' story will either conclude at the end of this season, or continue to places where all parties expected it to go after he rushed for 150 yards against the Bears on Thanksgiving Day in 2004. That if he is to be a Pro Bowler with the Cowboys, this is the season.

If he can't, the Cowboys might have to look elsewhere.

I'd hate to see that happen. When Parcells traded down in the draft to get JJ in the 2nd round, it looked like the Cowboys had gotten a huge steal. Once JJ got on the field after his initial injury I saw visions of greatness for years to come. Not only that, we picked up an extra draft choice that turned into Marcus Spears. At that point is seemed that Parcells had snookered the rest of the league once again. It turns out that verdict was premature.

This article isn't intended to bury Julius Jones, far from it. I expect him to have a very good year. If he can manage to stay healthy for a whole season and if the offensive line can get some consistent play then there's no reason to think he won't be the Cowboys long-term solution at running back. But you can't deny the past and so far JJ's track record doesn't inspire certainty.