In the 12 games DeMarco Murray has played start to finish since breaking out against St. Louis last Oct. 23, he has averaged 17.4 carries and 20.6 touches per game. He has six games with at least 20 carries.
But Murray will miss at least this week's game with a foot injury, leaving Felix Jones to carry the load. That is something Jones has not shown he can do on a consistent basis.
In his 17 starts, Jones has averaged 13.2 carries per game and 15.7 touches from scrimmage. He has carried the ball at least 20 times in only two games in his career. He had 18 carries last week against Baltimore.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, though, said he trusts that Jones can shoulder the load.
"When DeMarco got hurt last year, we handed the ball to Felix, and Felix has shown that he can run inside and run outside," Garrett said. "And I think we also saw a guy like [Phillip] Tanner the other day going into the ball game and getting his carries against that defense and having some positive success as well. You have to go next-man up. We feel really good about Felix Jones, been a really good football player for us for the last four years."
Tanner, who has 31 career carries for 107 yards and a touchdown, will get more carries as the second back. Lance Dunbar, who made his NFL debut last week with one carry for 11 yards, will play mostly on special teams, including as the kick returner in Jones' place.
"I think more likely you want to be able to have two guys as you’re rotating through, and then you spot the third guy," Garrett said. "You want to make sure those guys maintain their sweat, their rhythm, their adrenalin, all that stuff, and if you’re consciously trying to rotate three guys through there, I think it’s more difficult for those guys to get that. The third guy has got to be a pinch hitter like the third guys mostly are. I thought Dunbar did a good job of that the other day when the other guys to be spelled a little bit. Went in there and just did his job. I think those guys understand that. You want to keep those guys in rhythm as much as you can. You want to get them some carries and get them feeling a little bit in the ball game. So that will be the approach."
Jones, who failed the team's conditioning test before training camp because of a shoulder injury that kept him out of the off-season, had 50 plays on offense and 20 on special teams in the first four games. With Murray out most of Sunday's game at Baltimore, Jones played 49 plays on offense and five on special teams.
"I think the biggest issue with Felix was the injury that he had and missed the entire off-season," Garrett said. "It was difficult for him to run and get himself in the condition that he needs to get into to play running back in the National Football League. But that was a long time ago. He’s played a lot of football since then. He worked his way back through training camp and got some opportunities the other day in the game and showed us what he can do."
-- Charean Williams