Marion Barber suffered a calf strain against the Saints. The severity of the injury is as yet unclear, and it has yet to be determined whether he'll miss any playing time. But speculation is mounting that he may sit a game or two in favor of Tashard Choice.
Barber has rushed for 313 yards on 102 carries (3.1 per carry, the lowest in his NFL career) and three touchdowns this season. There are 32 backs in the league with at least 100 carries, and Barber's 3.1 yards per carry ranks him 31st on that list, just ahead of Lions rookie Jahvid Best with 3.0. Now, Barber has been used a lot as the Cowboys' short distance back, but even excluding his 24 short situation runs with two or less yards to go, his average is only 3.5 yards per carry.
In 2008 Barber caught 52 of 62 passes for a league leading 85.2% reception rate. Last year, he caught 26 of 36 passes thrown his way, but was clearly hampered by his thumb injury. Through 11 games this year, he's only 11 for 15, and has been supplanted as the receiving back by Felix Jones, who appears to have phenomenal hands: Felix has caught 37 of 40 passes thrown his way and leads all players in the NFL with a 92.5% reception rate.
Tashard Choice has put up good numbers over the last two years. Coming in late in the 2008 season due to injuries to Barber and Jones, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry against some of the toughest run defenses in the league. Last year, after initially starting the season as the third down back and then being relegated to playing the wildcat, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
There have been questions about both Tashard's ability and willingness to block, and this may be the single most important reason why Barber is still in the mix ahead of both Felix and Tashard. But this is Tashard's chance: The Colts are the 30th ranked run defense in the league, allowing 136 rushing yards per game. If not now, when?
Here's the message from Garrett to all the young players on the roster:
"We talk about "It takes everybody". It takes players and coaches and everybody else in the organization. I think our guys understand that.
When you get an opportunity to step in there you've got to take advantage of it. It goes to preparation. It goes to how they work during the week. And then when game time comes, it's time to go play, whether you're a starter, a spot player or a special teams player, take advantage of your chances."
If Tashard takes advantage of this opportunity, steps up and delivers, these may be Marion Barber's last days in Dallas. This is it for Tashard. But the dude has got to block, if he doesn't, the dude will not abide.