With Marion Barber apparently wearing down toward the end of the 2009 season, many fans and observers have wondered aloud whether Barber wouldn't be better suited as a specialist, similar to the role he had in 2007, as a compliment to Julius Jones.
To be sure, Dallas has the personnel to make this work. As Barber slowed, sophomore Felix Jones heated up, grabbing 569 yards on 77 touches in the Cowboys' last six games. Tashard Choice, too, has proved repeatedly that he can produce like a starter when afforded the opportunity. With three capable running backs--all of which, Stephen Jones has said, will return next year--the general feeling is that something must be done to maximize the effectiveness of the talented ground attack.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, this could mean moving Jones into a starting role, while retaining Barber as a third-down/short-yardage specialist, a role in which he has thrived in the past.
"That has been a consideration, and it certainly is a consideration," Jerry Jones said, from the NFL spring meetings in Orlando. "I see the advantages the way we’ve done it [with Marion Barber starting] and opening up real physical and intermediately bringing what Felix brings to the table. But it was a pretty close decision, really. It was a consideration: Is this the best way to initially start the game?
"I know this: We’ve been doing what we ought to be doing and that’s evaluating the running game and how we’re the most productive -- what plays, what formations give us the most production. Based on a preliminary input from our coaches that you could certainly see Felix in there earlier."
Jones continued that the team is afforded some breathing room insofar as their decision at running back goes, due to the ability of the three incumbent runners on the roster. That is, Barber isn't forced into a potentially damaging number of carries due to the presence of Jones and Choice.
"By having the depth, we can feel good about well, maybe Marion had him a couple of unfortunate seasons with some challenges injury-wise," Jones said. "Maybe we’ll get the big year out of him.
"If you did that, you’ve hit a home run."