Stud of the Week: Thomas Jones

Thomas Jones had been under some pressure the last few weeks. With second-year man Cedric Benson running hard in limited opportunities and whispers circling that a change in the lineup might be imminent, Jones had his biggest day of the season against the Giants in a hostile environment. The former Cavalier is the Bear Report Stud of the Week.

Heading into the 2006 season, Thomas Jones should have had very little left to prove as a member of the Chicago Bears. Coming of a monster `05 campaign, he is the only running back in franchise history not nicknamed 'Sweetness' to gain 1,300 yards in a season. It may have taken him a while to get established after a slow start to his career in Arizona, but it appeared that Jones had finally arrived as one of the better running backs in the NFL.

Then Cedric Benson was made the starter during training camp.

Professional football is largely a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately existence, but Jones found that out the hard way when he skipped some 'voluntary' workouts at Halas Hall in the offseason and made overtures about wanting a new contract. Benson, he of the $17 million in guaranteed money after being selected fourth overall in the 2005 NFL Draft, was chomping at the bit for more opportunities to shine, and Jones's disappearing act gave the organization the excuse it needed to make the switch at the top of the depth chart. Then Jones injured his hamstring just before the first practice in Bourbonnais, so the much-balleyhooed battle in the backfield for the starter's job never had a chance to materialize.

Shortly thereafter, Benson banged up his shoulder in training camp and opened the door for Jones to be given back the job that perhaps he never should have lost in the first place. Jones started the season-opener at Green Bay and every game since, but although he was getting 20+ carries pretty much every game, the `06 Jones didn't look very much like the Jones of `05. Benson showed some flashes as the backup, especially at home, so a change at tailback looked like a real possibility after last Sunday's dreadful and disappointing loss to Miami.

After this Sunday's performance in the Big Apple, Jones has put those thoughts to rest.

Jones got off to a very slow start against the Giants and actually lost a fumble for the first time this season before halftime. But in the second half, he ran with purpose and was a big reason why the Bears pulled away from the G-Men down the stretch and solidified themselves as the team to beat in the NFC. Jones is the Bear Report Stud of the Week.

Jones had a season-high 30 carries for a season-high 113 yards and scored his fourth touchdown of the season to seal the victory 38-20. His 3.8 yard-per-carry average won't turn any heads, but his ability to move the chains and keep the clock running in the second half was paramount in a key Chicago win. Jones also opened things up for quarterback Rex Grossman, who threw three TD passes after a brutal first quarter.

After a sluggish start to the season, Jones has now rushed for over 100 yards in three of the past five games. He is on pace for 1,289 yards on the ground, just a shade less than the 1.335 he produced last year. Some Bears may still be asking for more of Benson, but Jones is now 10th in the NFL in rushing and currently has more yards than Rudi Johnson, Ronnie Brown, Kevin Jones, Ahman Green, Brian Westbrook, Edgerrin James, and Jamal Lewis, none of whom are sharing carries with anyone remotely as talented as Benson.


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