Dud of the Week: Thomas Jones

There is no question that Thomas Jones was the people's champion in the running back debate that highlighted the start of training camp in Bourbonnais. But after a third straight ho-hum performance on Sunday, second-year man Cedric Benson is looking better and better parked in the garage. Jones is the Bear Report Dud of the Week.

As Simon and Garfunkle might have sang, "Where have you gone, Chicago running game? Bear Nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

Whoo ooh ooh.

The Bears may have had the 29th ranked offense in the NFL last season, but even with next to no passing game in the arsenal, they still had one of the best rushing attacks in the league. Thomas Jones was the top face on the tailback totem pole, racking up a career-high 1,335 yards and scoring nine touchdowns in the process. Even backups Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson performed admirably when called into action, averaging 4.1 and 5.1 yards per carry, respectively.

This season, with quarterback Rex Grossman finally healthy and living up to expectations, the Bears are also proving that they can move the ball in the air. The former Gator has thrown for 829 yards and six touchdowns in three games, good for an impressive passer rating of 100.9. The threat of the pass should be loosening up defenses and creating even more room in the running game for Jones & Company, right?


Actually, the exact oppposite has happened. Jones ran for 54 yards on 18 attempts against the Vikings on Sunday, the third consecutive game he has averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. On the season, he has only 181 yards on 60 rushes and is yet to hit paydirt. He has shown in the past that he can be a reliable receiver out of the backfield, and with offensive coordinator Ron Turner's play-calling putting Grossman in position to spead the ball around to myriad targets, one might assume that Jones is at least making an impact there. That, however, is also not the case as evidenced by his paltry five catches for 13 yards so far.

Benson got double-digit carries in Week 1 at Green Bay and Week 2 hosting the Lions, but his extended action appeared to be more a product of the lop-sided scores than head coach Lovie Smith's desire to rotate his top two backs. The Vikings game was a back-and-forth affair all afternoon, and consequently, Benson didn't even enter the huddle. Jones was given every series, and when you take away his long run of 17 yards, he only managed about two yards a crack.

The Bears are 3-0 - not to mention 3-0 in the division - and looking like real players in the NFC this season. And although the offense is scoring points with regularity and the defense is once again nearly inpenetrable, until this team finds its rhythm running the ball, it will be tougher and tougher to win on Sundays as Old Man Winter makes his way to the Windy City. Jones is in serious danger of losing his starting gig to Benson once and for all, making him the Bear Report Dud of the Week.


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