Barber is the Man

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips won't acknowledge as much. But it's so obvious that both Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder can see it.

Marion Barber has emerged as the team's feature back.

Julius Jones still retains the starting job -- likely because Phillips and the Cowboys staff don't want to hurt his feelings or team chemistry. But Barber is the man the Cowboys want to get the ball to when the game is on the line.

He's been the main ball carrier in the fourth quarter. He is even getting into the games earlier.

Not only did he get 19 carries to eight for Jones against the Vikings last Sunday, but Barber entered the game to start the second series for the first time all year.

The numbers speak the same. Barber has 84 carries for 479 yards this season. He has averaged 5.7 yards per carry. Jones, meanwhile, the so-called starter, has 78 carries for 296 yards and one touchdown.

But don't expect the lineup to change.

"I think we are fine where we are," Phillips said. "We have a game plan, and we stick with our game plan. Each game may be different, but we have a certain game plan we try to go with. It's partly feel, but partly our plan with what we're trying to do with certain personnel groups, certain formations we want to run, certain running plays we want to run. They run different running plays. They're different backs. That's the way we are doing it."

Phillips, however, can't ignore how Barber does it. Or the impact his barbarian style has on the team.

Owner Jerry Jones said Barber's style energizes the Cowboys. The players agree.

There is also no question that Barber's style fits the Cowboys offensive line well, especially late in the games. The line averages 324 pounds per man and has typically worn teams down in the second half of games.

So it's no coincidence that Barber's hard-charging style has feasted on the opposition in the fourth quarter. Barber has 32 carries for 236 yards in the fourth quarter, including 11 for 67 yards against the Vikings last Sunday. Four of his six touchdowns have come in the third and fourth quarters.

"He's a powerful inside runner and you want to hammer it inside as much as you can late in the ball game," Phillips said. "You don't want to be running sideways very much, or get outside, although he can run inside or outside. But I just think he's a real powerful inside runner. He can get 3.5 each play and make a first down, that's what we are trying to do. Now he's made some big runs running through there, but having him in those situations. ... He's the type of guy, if the team is worn down a little bit, he can punish them. Late in the game, he is coming in fresh too. He's not worn out from the whole game. That helps too."

Barber's emergence has come at the expense of Jones, who came into the season looking to cement his future as the Cowboys' featured back. He is in the final year of his contract and needed a big year to get an extension.

He rushed for 1,084 yards last season and hoped the departure of Bill Parcells would unleash him for a big season.

Jones admits that his reduced role has been frustrating but he said he will not complain. He said he can't complain. As long as the Cowboys are winning, he said, you won't hear any complaints from him.

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