One of the "big" stories early on in the 2010 Dallas Cowboys training camp was the size of Felix Jones. The running back had spent the first couple of years in the NFL shuffling between the field and the training room. While he'd shown the explosiveness and the big-play ability the Cowboys expected when they selected him in the first round out of Arkansas, his battles with injuries had slowed his progress and led many to wonder whether he could hold up as an NFL running back. The Cowboys had even taken the precaution of using him as a change-of-pace back in order to limit his carries, but even that had failed to prevent frequent trips to the training room.
In order to combat this problem, Jones had entered the 2010 training camp a little bit heavier and stronger, the theory being that the extra bulk would help limit the injury bug. That may have been the case, Jones enjoyed a relatively injury-free season, but the extra weight might have had a negative impact.
Jones appeared to be less elusive than he was the previous seasons, and the big-play facet of his game seem to suffer. Previously, whenever he touched the ball he was a threat to take it to the house. In 2010, that didn't seem to be the case. Not only was that area affected, but his quickness on cuts and his ability to instantly hit top-gear were diminished.
The trade-off of speed and quickness for bulk wasn't working out. Of course, Jones, and the Cowboys, were gambling that he could pack on the extra pounds and still be the back he was previously. 2010 showed that wasn't the case.
So Jones has decided the effort wasn't worth it, and will return to the back we knew previous to last season.
Speaking of staying in shape, you are back down to about 210 pounds. Last year, you played at 220. Is 210 your ideal weight?
"Yeah, last year is in the past. I take that as a learning process, and it was something that I wanted to do. I learned that if I wanted to be myself, I'd have to be at a weight that I prefer. Last year, that was what I preferred, and now I'm back to doing something different."
In other words, he preferred the weight gain last year, until he realized the negative impact it was having on his game. Now, hopefully he'll return to his normal fighting weight and get back those elements of his game that are so vital to his success, and the success of the Cowboys.
Now, the question becomes can he remain injury-free while playing with the slighter build. This will be an important factor for the Cowboys in 2011. If everybody reading the tea leaves is correct, Marion Barber will not be back with the Cowboys, or if he is, his role will be greatly reduced. This thrusts Jones into the position of "lead dog" and will likely give him the bulk of the carries. That's not to say the Cowboys don't have options. Tashard Choice is waiting in the wings and can provide some of the tough, inside-the-tackles running that Barber used to give. Also, if the Cowboys do decide to release Barber, they'll need to pick up another back; either a veteran, in the draft, or elevated from their own practice squad.
But in all likelihood, it will be the Jones/Choice show in 2011.
Here's hoping Felix can play at the weight we need him at while simultaneously avoiding injuries.