The Falcons’ Matt Ryan was the Associated Press’ NFL offensive rookie of the year last season. It was well deserved after completing 61.1 percent of his passes and throwing 16 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 87.7.
But for the first three weeks of the season, Cowboys running back Felix Jones was the leader. In fact, he won all the primaries. Jones scored a touchdowns in the first three weeks of the season, including the first carry of his career at Cleveland. Jones scored on an 11-yard run, a 60-yard run, 33-yard scamper and how could we forget his 98-yard kickoff return for a score?
Jones’ season was hampered by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s inability to get him the ball in a Week 4 loss to Washington. In Week 6 when the team lost quarterback Tony Romo, Jones suffered a hamstring injury against Arizona.
When Jones was rehabbing his hamstring, he injured his big toe which eventually required season-ending surgery.
Jones now says he’s 90 percent healthy and when the season begins he will wear a specifically designed sole to fit his foot to give it more comfort when he cuts and pushes off.
But why are we talking about Jones in the middle of the NBA playoffs? Simple. Jones, like several NFL players, hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
Over the last three days, Jones has hosted a charity event in his hometown of Tulsa, to support the youth in his city roughly three hours away from Dallas.
“It’s my way of thanking all the people who helped me growing up in Tulsa,” Jones said. “This is a big opportunity for me to play for the Dallas Cowboys and comeback here to my community and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me.”
Several of Jones’ teammates attended the three-day event which had a black-tie fundraiser, a free football camp and life-skills training.
One of the players who was scheduled to visit was Jones’ teammate running back Tashard Choice.
It is Choice who wants the Cowboys to emerge into what the Giants became did last season: a fierce running attack.
The Giants three-headed monster nicknamed, Earth, Wind and Fire, led the NFL in rushing at 157.4 yards per game. New York was one of three teams to average over 150 yards per game and the Giants were the only team to average five yards per carry.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones wants that for his team. Marion Barber will remain the starter but the Cowboys want to use a healthy Felix Jones and Choice as the middle relievers to set up Barber as the closer.
Choice told Jones the team is looking for a nickname for the trio.
Jones said maybe Flash, Dash and Smash.
Whichever name is used, Jones expects to contribute. He averaged 8.9 yards per carry last season and finished the season eighth in the league in kickoff return average at 27.1.
“It was tough last year,” he said of watching games while being hurt. “I produced a little bit and played a role and it just stopped as soon as it started. [The injury] has made me a lot stronger and it made me aware of how I need to prepare myself to stay on the field.”
This weekend, Jones is off the field, relaxing with the people who moved him out of Tulsa, to Arkansas and later a first-round pick in the NFL.
“It means a great deal to me to have my teammates here with me,” Jones said. “It shows what type of people they are. And I didn’t want to wait four or five years to make my mark. I wanted to do it now.”