Running Amuck

Outside of the 70 yard scamper to open the home contest against New Orleans (which was one of very few highlights that evening), what do you remember about Julius Jones' 2006 performance?

What game-altering or contest-deciding runs do you recall? How many times did the running game dominate and crush the opponent? Was it a feared attack and the staple of the Dallas Cowboys offense?

Simply put, Julius Jones may have compiled the quietest 1000 yard season in NFL history.

Harsh? No, just reality. So the question remains, just what exactly do the Cowboys have in Julius Jones?

Three years in and a whole host of questions remain. Without doubt, the organization and fandom continually hang on Jones' exploits displayed late in the 2004 season and punctuated by the Monday night game in Seattle. That contest alone rendered Bill Parcells and the Scouting Department genius for making the bold decision to bypass both Stephen Jackson and Kevin Jones in the first round of the 2004 Draft. A trade with Buffalo sent the Cowboys to the second round seeking Jones and netting an additional first round selection in 2005. The right move? Not sure this is known, but 2007 should provide some answers.

A quick look back reveals the 2005 acquisition of Marcus Spears as part of the Jones' deal. By all accounts the jury is still out, but something says Wade Phillips, and his brand of defense, will determine Spears' fate once and for all. But what about Jones? Will the fans and organization see what they've been looking for the last three years? That being consistency, the essence of the running back position. Thus far, there has been no middle ground with Julius Jones. He lacks constant, steady productivity and reliability. There is no true faith he can shoulder up the team and carry it in a tight, fourth quarter game nursing a marginal lead. He's viewed as a potential home run threat that also doubles as an injury waiting to happen. The flashes have been brilliant, and the absences have been detrimental.

The arrival of Marion Barber III has complimented Jones' existence and rendered his production tolerable. They are a nice tandem backfield. Make no mistake about it; one could not survive without the other. Both their styles are needed to fuel the current running attack. Those calling for Barber to shoulder the full load are fooling themselves. He can't do it alone. No how, no way. He gives the perception he can by the role he plays and the production he delivers. His running style is perfect for a third down specialist and goal line weapon. It could not stand up to the 25-30 carry punishment on any given NFL Sunday. Not on a regular and repeated basis. He doesn't possess that extra gear, and the constant pounding would only lessen his marginal speed. Barber seems to be perfectly type cast.

Is Jones?

The two tight end formation does not favor Jones. Unless deceptive eyes are at work, Jones is not an instinctive runner. The true single back set requires a back with vision and anticipation. The astute are always looking a level beyond, searching for a gap or setting up a block. Julius is much better playing follow the leader. He needs a battering ram to lead him into the hole. It'll be most interesting to watch the Jason Garrett/Tony Sparano system develop. Will they use Polite, Hoyte or potentially draft a Moose Johnston clone in the upcoming Draft? Jones needs a bone fide fullback to absorb the first would-be tackler. Too many times he has succumbed to the first point of contact.

These observations are not an attempt to advocate the trading of Julius Jones. He could have a future in Dallas if utilized the right way and type cast in the right system. This would have been one of the prominent factors in bringing Norv Turner to town. His utilization of the running game is extremely noteworthy. It's highly unlikely Jones will ever ascend to Emmitt Smith status, and he shouldn't be expected to. Emmitt toiled under "perfect storm" conditions. Not to diminish his God-given talent, but he toted the rock for a coordinator who constantly exploited the running game, ran behind one of the greatest offensive lines in the history of the game, and was the recipient of a Hall of Fame passing combination which opened up many running lanes. And if all that wasn't conducive to success, he also benefited from having the most unselfish; plow horse in organizational history paving his way to the NFL record books. Indeed, the conditions were ideal for grandiose success.

If Jones happened to be traded, hopefully it would be for a player or part of a package allowing the Cowboys to address running back as part of the transaction. Who knows, there may be a better compliment to Barber out there for consideration. If the opportunity presents itself, the Cowboys shouldn't be hesitant about kicking some tires and looking into the proposition. Jones has showed flashes and provides an upside teams may covet. Any offers must be entertained and evaluated; however, the best solution would be retention while trying to find a system which best suits his abilities.

Again, it's a matter of consistency. If Julius can prove to the Cowboys he is an impact player, displaying consistent production and reliability, then he'll have a future in Dallas. This year will be significant in that Jones is running for a new contract. A golden rule in the NFL is to never trade a running back in the last year of his current deal. Just ask Shaun Alexander and several others before him. They know there's a potential big pay day lingering. If traded, the Cowboys would lose out on the self-motivation for a productive 2007. With this in mind, watch for Jones to angle for more playing time and/or goal line carries. He knows this is a vital year in his young career. Regardless of decisions made pertaining to Jones, the Cowboys would be well-advised to use one of their late round compensatory picks on a fresh set of legs. It's hopeful Tyson Thompson will rebound from his 2006 injury, but if there happens to be another Terrell Davis sitting out there in the sixth round of the Draft, then bring him in.

The lights must go on for Julius Jones in 2007.

Switching gears and discussing a light which may never come on, Terrell Owens is a walking, talking model of hypocrisy. Think about it. In three NFL stops, what's been Owens' biggest and most consistent beef? Lack of respect. And how does the lightning rod receiver measure respect? By the almighty dollar. Respect for Owens is defined in contract terms only. That, in itself, is one sad commentary. Fortunately for Owens, he's not alone in this regard, but here's where he doesn't get it, never has, and probably never will. Did Michael Jordan and does Tiger Woods earn their greatest wealth on the field (court, fairway) of play? Hardly. The manner in which they carry themselves and the public personae displayed basically kicked in the door to limitless marketing. If a player has the ability to endorse while carrying super star status, name your price. Saddle yourself with corporate sponsorship and write your own ticket. Did the relationship with the Nike swoosh do anything for the Jordan and Woods' bank accounts?

Like it or not, and disagree if you will, Terrell Owens does possess marketability traits and qualities. He's charismatic and casts a larger than life shadow, but his prioritization sequence is reversed and contradicts the basic premise of selling. If he ever figured out how to silently reap his respect, he could literally surpass the current NFL earning power of a Peyton Manning. The laughter indicates the popular belief it will never happen, and it might not, but the only thing standing in the way is Owens himself.

Instead of blaming organizations for not showing him the love with the monster contract, he is the sole barrier to the respect he so richly desires. Complicating matters more, he refuses to surround himself with talented, proven image consultants and marketing geniuses. He'd rather let Drew "Fingernails on the Blackboard" Rosenhaus and Kim "911" Etheredge erode his like and sale ability. The longer he continues to travel this path; the buckets of money will remain at bay.

Words unspoken, Terrell Owens has the smile and look that seem to magnetize people and the public eye. Look at the disdain impact they have. Imagine what they could do if the pursuit was endearment?! His flare and smile are on par with Jordan in the clutch or the unflappable Woods charging down the 18th fairway. The differentiation occurs when each separates the two rows of teeth. When Jordan and Woods speak, the forthcoming commentary lacks grating venom. They seem to draw people in not repel the masses.

Terrell Owens, do you understand and fully comprehend the magnitude of your current environment? Apparently not. You play a sport in a gargantuan state where football reigns supreme. It's the ultimate stage without a close second. Add to it the fact you wear the revered blue star on each side of your helmet, and your ticket to Mount Moolah is basically punched. If memory serves correctly, it was the Hall of Fame bound Playmaker and future inductee Deion Sanders who ran to Owens in his time of need. They ran the point and interference while attempting to educate the self-destructive Owens on his new surroundings. Can they not also provide counsel during the off season when the lights are dimmed? Are there two more highly-qualified individuals to speak to flamboyance, presence and the power of the star?

Can't this magnetism somehow be reversed? Will it always be in repel mode, or with the right handling and receptivity (key ingredient), could there be a swing towards magnetic attraction? Maybe all the damage has been done and is incapable of repair, but common sense (herein the problem) says there's a ton of "respect" still out there for the taking, or better yet, earning! The question remains, will the bad boy, center of controversy image ever disappear? If the answer is no, then Mr. Owens, look no further than the mirror to accurately identify your obstacle to sought-after respect. You really could have it all with simple recognition and application, especially on a team devoid of a true super star. Even absent star power, this organization continually remains in the spotlight. Marketing, and subsequent money, is all about capitalizing on strengths. Playing where you play and playing for whom you play, a closed mouth and infectious smile could garner you all the respect you'll ever need.

Why does something so simple seem so impossible when it comes to Owens? Why not travel down the path of least resistance instead of encountering every pot and sink hole known to man? It's really just a matter of choice, yet your historical track record only has you bringing it on yourself. What a shameful and disrespectful display when the opportunity out there is beyond "golden" in nature. Wake up, Mr. Owens!! Before you know it, the goose, and her golden eggs, will be long gone, and with the prize goes the respect. The opportunistic clock is ticking.

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