Problem Solved

The Cowboys should now have little concern when it comes to the running back position.

Julius Jones had a standout rookie year, rushing for 819 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games.

There was no reason to think he couldn't be even better in 2005, especially if he stayed healthy and played a full season.

So in a sense, running back was not a concern of the Cowboys.

Yet, this offseason, the Cowboys did not rest on Jones' laurels. They improved their running back corps and should be able to produce with or without Jones with the drafting of rookie running back Marion Barber III and the free agent signing of former Bears starter Anthony Thomas.

The Cowboys are now versatile with the size and strength to go with Jones' speed and quickness. Barber is 212 pounds and Thomas is 225.

Both should lighten the load on Jones, who averaged almost 25 carries per game when he played last season.

Coach Bill Parcells said getting Barber in the fourth round was very important because of his versatility in having size, speed and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

"Marion is a very versatile back," Jones said. "When he comes in the game, we can do the same things with him we do with Julius Jones. He's that type of back."

Thomas offers a different style.

The "A-Train" is a pounding runner at his best between the tackles and in short yardage. The Cowboys are hopeful he can be the third-and-short back Eddie George wasn't last season. For his career, Thomas has averaged 3.9 yards per carry. But last season, he rushed for a career-low 404 yards and produced a George-like 3.3 yards a carry.

Thomas will likely be the short yardage and goal line back. He also gives them insurance so they don't have to rush Barber.

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