Countdown to Camp: Running Back

Second year man Julius Jones leads a stable of running backs with a nice combination of youth and experience.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- RB Julius Jones. Backups -- RB Anthony Thomas, RB Marion Barber, RB Tyson Thompson, RB Erik Bickerstaff.

Rushing for 819 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games as a rookie, Julius Jones looked to be heir apparent to the running back throne in Dallas, following Duane Thomas, Calvin Hill, Tony Dorsett and all-time rushing king Emmitt Smith.

The speedy Jones, who missed eight games last year because of injuries, should be stronger and better in 2005.

An offseason workout program has already bolstered his stock in the eyes of head coach Bill Parcells, who commented after the team's mini-camp in May that his second year running back was already showing signifcant signs of improvement.

"He's already doing things that he never did last year," Parcells said. "You can tell that he's taken the offseason seriously."

Despite Jones' success both on and off the field, the Cowboys did anything but stand pat at running back this offseason.

They went out and made the running back position stronger with the drafting of Marion Barber III in the fourth round and signing former 1,000-yard rusher Anthony Thomas to a free agent contract. Look for Thomas to be a short-yardage back and serve as a change of pace to Jones.

"I look at him as a between-the-tackle runner a little bit," Parcells said. "My vision for him right now would be a thumper kind of running back - short yardage and goal line. But that's not going to be enough. He's going to have to venture out into the special teams area."

Barber will be looked in third down situations, and also the return game, much like undrafted free agent Tyson Thompson.

Thompson, a native of the Dallas area and the fastest player currently on the team was one of the first players targeted by the Cowboys after the 2005 NFL Draft.

Erik Bickerstaff returns after missing last season with a ruptured left Achillies tendon and is likely facing an uphill battle for playing time.

Assuming Jones stays healthy, Parcells anticipates giving him the ball 20 times a game, not the 25-30 times he was used to seeing at the end of last season.

Anthony Thomas, and either Marion Barber or Tyson Thompson will split the remaining carries, with Thomas being used more in short-yardage and goal line situations.

Also See:
Countdown to Camp: Quarterback

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