James D. Smith/Icon SMI
02 May 2008 - Felix Jones (28) of the Dallas Cowboys during their rookie camp in Irving, Texas.
Jones ran straight ahead, saw two defenders closing in, then slowed and cut left. As those guys were sprawled out, wondering how they missed him, Jones sped up, turning this short toss into a 42-yard gain and drawing a roar from the home crowd. Then, with one second left in the half, Jones took a handoff and walked into the end zone with the go-ahead touchdown that sent Dallas on its way to a 30-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Friday night.
In the postgame locker room, everyone was still buzzing about Jones' video-game-like moves on his big play. That one jaunt was quite a reminder of how much the Cowboys missed Jones when he was hurt last season and how he could be the big-play threat to help everyone forget Terrell Owens.
"We've got something special there," coach Wade Phillips said. "He makes explosive plays."
Jones' career got off to a spectacular start, with a touchdown on his first career carry, a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown the next week and a 60-yard TD run in his third game. Two weeks later, he had a 33-yard touchdown run and 96 yards for the game.
But that was it. Jones was hurt and never recovered, and Dallas lacked explosiveness the rest of the year -- except for T.O.'s temper, that is. There's no telling how much happier Owens might have been if defenses had to worry about another big-play threat.
"That X-factor that (Jones) brings to a ballgame is something you can't just replace," receiver Patrick Crayton said.
Now Jones is healthy again and eager to pick up where he left off.
"Working hard this whole offseason, I wanted to get back into the swing of things, and get back to where I felt good," he said. "I believe I'm getting there."
Marion Barber remains the starting running back, but he's a bruising runner. So Jones' finesse style is a perfect complement. Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will get to mix and match their styles, perhaps using them both on the field together. Plays like the 42-yarder are more reason for Garrett to come up with creative ways to get the ball to No. 28.
"Get the ball in his hands in space, he's dangerous," quarterback Tony Romo said. "I think you see that every time he plays."
Jones downplayed his big gain, giving credit to receiver Miles Austin for making a block that sprung him for more yards. While he was disappointed not to turn it into a touchdown, he got another chance to score when the Cowboys were facing first-and-goal from the 1. Although there were only 5 seconds left in the half, Dallas gambled on a run; it was preseason, after all.
The line held their blocks and fullback Julian Crosslin helped create a nice hole for Jones to squeeze through.
"It opened up and all I had to do was run the ball in," Jones said.
Barber likely will be called on for most of those tough-yardage plays, but Jones was glad to get a chance.
"You never know when your number is going to be called," he said. "We prepare in practice for anything. I was ready and willing to put the ball in the end zone."
Most of all, he's just happy to be healthy and back in the lineup.
"It's fun to go out there and play," he said. "I've been working hard this offseason just to get back to where I feel (I am now) and I feel like I can produce, and that's what I feel like I'm doing."