IRVING, Texas – After hamstring and toe injuries derailed his rookie season in 2008, and a sprained knee slowed him for part of ’09, Felix Jones got a reputation as being somewhat fragile.
That’s ancient history now, though. Jones showed down the stretch of 2010 that he can be a primary ball-carrier, taking a constant pounding while still running hard, even between the tackles. With Marion Barber gone this year, the running game rests on Jones’ shoulders even more.
It just so happens that one of those shoulders was dislocated against San Francisco, the kind of setback one might worry could negatively affect his ability to carry the load.
“I just had to keep my head up,” Jones said. “I definitely know that it’s always a chance for injury, always a chance for bumps and bruises, but it’s how you respond to it and make the best of it.”
After doctors popped the joint back into place, Jones was able to keep going against the 49ers. Wearing a harness last week against Washington, he had his biggest game of the young season, with his 95 yards on the ground in the second half proving crucial in a win.
Jones punctuated the 14-carry, 115-yard performance by showing some toughness on his longest run of the night, a 40-yarder he cut back against the grain. Rather than stepping out of bounds to avoid a tackle, he laid his injured right shoulder into the chest of hard-hitting Redskins safety LaRon Landry to pick up extra yardage. No big deal, seemingly, for the now-rugged Cowboys running back.
“I was just trying to finish out the play, pretty much,” Jones said. “That’s it.”
Through three games, though, Jones’ second half against Washington is still all the Cowboys have to show for their efforts rushing the ball. In the season’s first 10 quarters – even if eight of them were against great run defenses in New York and San Francisco – the team had mustered only 139 yards on 59 attempts.
Now, the Cowboys are hopeful that Jones’ breakout performance on Monday night can be a springboard to bigger things on the ground.
“It’s always great to run the ball, get the defense kind of backed up a little bit, get them off you a little bit in the passing game,” tackle Doug Free said. “It’s definitely great to run the ball, tempo-wise, be two-dimensional, not just one-dimensional. There’s definitely more things to work on. I think we should improve each and every week. Been a little bit of a slow start to that, but we’ll get her going.”
It’ll be a big task for Jones and the line this week against the Lions, with their great defensive front of Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril.
“Not just the front four,” Jones said. “Their whole defense is tough. Those guys are fast, very explosive, everybody is surrounding the ball. We definitely have to be ready for this upcoming Sunday, definitely be prepared for that.”