In Focus: The RBs

Does Erik Bickerstaff have a role this year? Is Anthony Thomas a viable back up? What about Marion Barber and UFA Tyson Thompson? We examine the Cowboys running backs in this report.

Julius Jones
Stats: Second round draft pick out of Notre Dame gained 819 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games as a rookie.

Notes: Has shown flashes of brilliance and may end up becoming the steal of the 2004 NFL Draft. Will be the clear starter headed into the 2005 season.

Outlook: The sky is the limit for Julius Jones, but the key for his growth in the National Football League is to remain healthy. Anything less than a 1,000 yards in 2005 would be a disappointment.

Anthony Thomas
Stats: Has gone over 1,000 yards in two of his four years in the league, all with the Chicago Bears.

Notes: Signed after the 2005 NFL Draft to help provide depth at running back. Has shown the ability to carry the load but doesn't have breakaway speed like Jones.

Outlook: A great insurance policy who could pay dividends in short-yardage and third down situations. Only signed a one-year deal, so the Cowboys will have options if he doesn't perform well.

Marion Barber
Stats: In 38 games with the Gophers, Marion carried the ball 575 times for 3,276 yards (5.7 avg) and 35 touchdowns.

Notes: Drafted in the fourth round out of Minnesota, Barber is a faster, younger version of Thomas. He also has good hands out of the backfield.

Outlook: An intriguing pick, Jerry Jones has maintained that the Cowboys were high on him all along. Should benefit with Thomas and Jones ahead of him this year.

Erik Bickerstaff
Stats: Ruptured his left Achilles tendon in a mini-camp practice last year and underwent surgery to repair the injury and missed the entire season. Finished his rookie season (2003) with 56 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

Notes: Bruising runner that has shown small flashes of development during his short career in Dallas. Last year's injury didn't help his cause, but with a strong mini-camp and training camp, could be a factor as a back up.

Outlook: With the recent additions of Thomas, Barber, and even UFA Tyson Thompson, Bickerstaff has his work cut out for him to make the 53-man regular season roster.

Tyson Thompson
Stats: Rushed 151 times for 811 yards and five touchdowns during his only season at San Jose State.

Notes: Heavily recruited athlete in high school that bounced around the collegiate ranks. Speed is his biggest asset. Quick footed, elusive runner with the ability to create. Could become the perfect third down for the Cowboys if he catches on.

Outlook: Parcells has already noted Thompson as the fastest of all the undrafted free agents. Could jump ahead of Erik Bickerstaff in the running back pecking order with a strong training camp.

Notes: The Cowboys have answered all of their running back needs and then some this offseason. Second year back Julius Jones is the starter, and assuming he stays healthy, he should easily go over 1,000 yards this year. Thomas will be used in the same role that Eddie George was in 2004, but hopefully be more effective. Marion Barber is an X-factor who has already demonstrated solid speed and a strong work ethic during the Cowboys rookie mini-camp. Don't be surprised to see Tyson Thompson make the team in some capacity. His speed cannot be ignored.

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