NFL

Cowboys want to run ... and this time they mean it

IRVING, Texas — Prior to the loss to Green Bay, Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips expressed his desire to rekindle fading memories of Felix Jones dashing downfield with the ball.

Jones got three carries and gained 6 yards against the Packers.

Facing toady's bounce-back game against Washington, owner-general manager Jerry Jones, fresh from watching Thursday's practice, weighed in with his own request to get the ball in the hands of his disappearing playmaker.

"I'd sure like to see the ball in the hands of the players with speed and playmaking ability," he said. "All of those are almost cliches when you say them, but I'd like to see him (Felix Jones) with the ball more."

Jones is the most dynamic of the Cowboys' three running backs and, along with receiver Miles Austin, is the rare player on the roster who can go the distance on any given play.

Yet, he had only seven carries and 16 yards in the past two games.

"You don't have to really be a sophisticated football man to step out here and watch practice and watch what Felix Jones does and understand that he needs the ball," Jerry Jones said.

That's not a potshot at the Cowboys' Princeton-educated offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, the man Jones is paying $3 million this season to effectively utilize his top weapons.

Much has been made recently of the Cowboys' dwindling running game, an attack that came out of the gates with ferocity and ranked No. 1 in the league.

In the past two games, Dallas ran 37 times and threw 73 times. It failed to reach 100 yards rushing in both games, just the third time that's happened this season and the first since the Week 4 loss at Denver.

Dallas' ground game ranks eighth, averaging 130.0 yards a game, but still ranks second in yards per carry at 5.1, suggesting that when the Cowboys do commit to the run, they are usually successful.

Their season-low 14 carries at Green Bay, coaches say, was more a matter of circumstance than strategy. The Cowboys had trouble converting third downs all game, limiting their number of snaps, and then passed on their final 27 snaps, trailing 17-0.

Even so, the Cowboys spent the majority of the Green Bay game in shotgun formation, with only 13 of 58 plays coming with quarterback Tony Romo under center.

"Our goals are always to be balanced. That's what we're trying to do," Garrett said. "I think we were 10 (pass) and eight (run) at halftime. We always want to do that. That's something that I think we've done a good job of this year. You always want to attack the defense with as many things as you can. It starts with the run and pass. It starts with running it inside, running it outside, throwing it long, throwing it short, and using different personnel groups and different players."

The Cowboys' running game starts with Marion Barber, who hands the baton to Jones, recently with far less frequency. So why is that?

Phillips acknowledged earlier in the week that Jones is not adept at pass protection and some other assignments, which removes him at times that he otherwise might be in the game.

Then there's Jones' injury history. He strained a ligament in his left knee in Week 3, missed two games and hasn't been the same since.

Before the injury, Jones had 21 carries for 212 yards (10.1 yards a carry). Since coming back after the bye week and wearing a knee brace, he has 23 carries for 92 yards.

His eye-popping explosiveness has been curiously missing.

"I'm feeling good. The knee's been doing good," Jones said. "We've just been put into situations where we've had to do different things. That's just about it."

  Comments