Cowboys see Felix Jones the scatback running Hog wild this season
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By Charean Williams
CARROLLTON, Texas — Felix Jones missed football late last season. He missed his teammates. He missed the games. He even missed practice.
Injuries make football grow fonder.
"Not being able to play football for seven or eight months, that's tough on a football player, especially one who loves the game," the Dallas Cowboys' running back said.
Jones was one player who couldn't wait for organized team activities to begin. Eight months after a shortened rookie season, Jones is back on the practice field and finally feeling like himself again.
"He's looked like the old Felix," running backs coach Skip Peete said.
Jones, the 22nd overall choice in 2008, was a candidate for rookie of the year honors last season when he injured his left hamstring Oct. 12 against the Arizona Cardinals. While rehabbing his hamstring, Jones tore a ligament beneath his left big toe. Surgery ended his season after 266 rushing yards, 10 receiving yards and 434 return yards.
"I used it as a learning process," Jones said. "Things like that are going to happen in such a physical sport. You never know what you can do to hurt yourself. You find out in different ways. It's a learning process for me, figuring out different ways to get better without messing myself up even more."
Wade Phillips, Jason Garrett and Peete have been charged with finding more ways to use Jones, whom some in the Cowboys' organization have compared to Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett. Despite playing in only six games — including one in which he didn't have a carry or a catch — Jonesproved to be a home-run threat, with kickoff returns of 98 and 43 yards and runs of 60 and 33 yards. Jones averaged 8.9 yards per carry and 27.1 yards per kickoff return. He just didn't get enough of them.
"It's a little different when you have a guy who's explosive like that and all of sudden those explosive plays are gone," Peete said. "You've got to find them somewhere else. We obviously missed him a lot."
The Cowboys now are trying to keep up with Jones.
They are experimenting with the single wing in hopes of getting Jones some favorable matchups. The Cowboys have nicknamed the formation the Razorback, instead of the Wildcat, in honor of Jones' college. Jones and Darren McFadden, whom the Oakland Raiders selected fourth overall last year, successfully ran the formation at Arkansas under assistant coach David Lee, a former Cowboys assistant who introduced the Wildcat to the NFL last year as an assistant with the Miami Dolphins.
"At Arkansas, I only had a couple of guys to beat (out of the single wing)," Jones said. "It's better than trying to beat all 11 of them at once. It'll help me out a lot, and I believe once we get better out of it, it'll be one of our weapons."
Jones also has lined up in the slot and has practiced fielding punts.
If he's healthy, Jones never again will go without having his number called on offense as he did in a Sept. 28 loss to the Washington Redskins. The Cowboys are going to find ways to get him the ball.
"His speed is what we all refer to, but the obvious is his ability to see all the cars on the highway," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who made the decision to select Felix Jones over Rashard Mendenhall. "... My expectations for Felix are really to have his touches upped significantly, certainly if you take into account that injury situation last year. He'll be a major 'touch factor' in this offense. He will be."
(c) 2009, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
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