We waited five halves for Felix Jones to fulfill the promise that comes with being the Cowboys' feature back.
Fulfillment came in the second half on Monday night and it was well worth the wait. Jones picked up 95 yards on seven carries after halftime, a welcome development on a night when injuries and mistakes kept the Cowboys passing game from making enough plays to win the game by itself. Jones finished with 115 yards on 14 carries, his second career 100-yard game and the first since he was bumped up the depth chart to the top spot.
The most impressive thing about Jones' performance is that he did it with the Redskins defense keying on him. He gained 99 yards on 10 carries with eight Redskins in the box, including a key 40-yard burst through the line that set up one of the Cowboys' fourth quarter field goals. That play, as well as a 29-yarder in the third quarter, showed off the full complement of Jones' skills.
Jones has a superior first step, the vision to find the holes open for him and the shiftiness to make defenders miss tackles. Then he can push it into second gear and run away from the defense once he's made his way through the line of scrimmage. He even threw in a 27-yard gain on a pass from Tony Romo for good measure.
It was a mighty encouraging night, right up until the point Jones aggravated his shoulder injury and had to leave the game in the hands of Tashard Choice. That's when all of the glory fades and you find yourself wondering if Jones is going to be able to hold up to the pounding that he's going to take as the bell cow.
The Cowboys haven't seen nearly enough from Choice or DeMarco Murray to know if they are capable of taking some of Jones' touches and keeping the offense productive. That means Jones can't get forced to the sideline for portions of every game without putting the Cowboys at risk of losing games.
Understanding that is easy, stopping it from happening will be difficult. Jones' injuries aren't a result of a lack of conditioning. They also aren't a chronic thing that can be managed. Injuries are part of life for a running back and the Cowboys are just going to have to hope that their bell cow avoids them often enough to lead them to victories.