With the announcement on Friday that the Seahawks and former Dallas Cowboys running back Julius Jones have agreed to terms, many see this as the fist big step to a future without Shaun Alexander in Seattle. The 30-year-old former MVP and feature back has suffered through two seasons of downgraded production.
Is "Hello" to Jones "Goodbye" to Shaun?
With their new running back signings, the Seahawks seem close to a major goodbye.
Seahawks.NET
http://sea.scout.com/story/735303-is-hello-to-jones-goodbye-to-shaun
SeahawkFootball.com
Mar 7, 2008

Is "Hello" to Jones "Goodbye" to Shaun?

Is "Hello" to Jones "Goodbye" to Shaun?

With the announcement on Friday that the Seahawks and former Dallas Cowboys running back Julius Jones have agreed to terms, many see this as the fist big step to a future without Shaun Alexander in Seattle. The 30-year-old former MVP and feature back has suffered through two seasons of downgraded production.

Injuries and a subpar offensive line were partially responsible, but it's fairly common knowledge that Alexander's burst is basically gone. Jones will join T.J. Duckett as the backfield's new signings. What this means for Alexander and running mate Maurice Morris is still unclear.

As we wrote yesterday when Jones was visiting Seattle, he was highly regarded out of college -- rated fifth overall among running backs by NFLDraftScout.com, and noted for his burst at the line and ability to blow through the second level. On the other hand, there were inconsistency issues going back to his college years, and it was noted that he didn't take well to tough coaching at the NCAA level.

Jones saw three different breakout games in his rookie season, and one of them was the 43-39 victory over the Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 6, 2004. Jones gained 198 yards on 30 carries for a 6.6 yards per carry average and three touchdowns. The fact that Seattle's run defense was a sieve that season doesn't lessen the impressiveness of the accomplishment.

Unfortunately, Jones proved to be boom--and-bust almost from the word go. In 2005, he alternated a week 16 virtuoso performance against the Carolina Panthers (34/194/5.7/2) with a stinker against the St. Louis Rams (15/35/2.3/0). 2006 was his most productive year with the Cowboys, as he rushed 267 times for 1,084 yards and four touchdowns. He proved to be decent as a receiver in the flats as well, catching 35 passes in 2005 and 23 in 2007.

Perhaps the biggest indictment of Jones' tenure in Dallas is the fact that Marion Barber, his backfield-mate since 2005, proved to be so much better in the same offense. In 2006 and 2007, Barber became Dallas' real feature back, and he far outclassed Jones in DVOA and DPAR in both seasons.

2006 (See full season RB stats here)

Player

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Runs

Yards

TD

FUM

Suc
Rate

Rank

M.Barber

DAL

30.8

8

31.7

9

35.7%

2

37.2%

135

654

14

0

56%

4

J.Jones

DAL

13.7

25

17.7

18

-1.9%

28

1.6%

267

1084

4

1

45%

30

2007 (See full season RB stats here)

Player

Team

DPAR

DPAR
Rank

PAR

PAR
Rank

DVOA

DVOA
Rank

VOA

Runs

Yards

TD

FUM

Suc
Rate

Rank

M.Barber

DAL

31.9

3

30.5

5

23.9%

2

22.3%

203

984

10

1

49%

15

J.Jones

DAL

2.5

44

4.9

39

-9.8%

41

-6.2%

164

603

2

0

37%

54

In a word, yikes.

To get beyond the numbers and talk to someone who's seen Jones do his thing, we turned to David Halprin, who writes most estimably for Blogging the 'Boys on the SB Nation Network:

Julius Jones is the kind of back that can drive you insane. There are times when he flashes enormous ability and looks like a feature back in the NFL. After coming back from injury in his rookie year where he missed the first part of the season, he was brilliant. He had three games were he rushed for 198, 150 and 149 yards and the following year he had a 194-yard game. We were convinced we had our successor to Emmitt Smith. Unfortunately, he never reached that level of play on a consistent basis. That's the crux of what was so maddening about Jones, he could rip off games that were among the best in Cowboys history then have long stretches were he was average -- at best.  

He possesses good top-end spend and can be very shifty out in space. He has good feet and he also is not bad at catching passes out of the backfield, although we didn't utilize him in that way often. He's also not a bad blocker when it comes to blitz pickup. The theory has always been that if you can get Julius out into space he can do damage. That was true to some extent, but he has a couple of flaws that really hurt his overall production.

His vision is suspect. I watch every Cowboys game in detail the next day for a film review that I do for my blog. Over and over, it looked like Julius would make the wrong cut and run into traffic instead of away from it. We use to joke that with Julius, the old line of Lombardi, "run to daylight" was inverted and became "run to darkness." Every game he left yards on the field. He's also not good at making guys miss at the line of scrimmage. If he doesn't get perfect blocking on a play then it's likely the play is over, he's not very good at creating his own chances. If you can get him to the second level, provided he makes the right cut, he can be dangerous. He also goes down very easily with first contact. You hardly ever see him break a tackle or drive the pile forward. He's not one of those backs that fall forward at the end of runs for an additional couple of yards.

If he's managed right in a game he can be somewhat effective but I don't think he has the skills to be a feature back even though we tried to make him one. Things have to go right for him on a play for him to have a chance; he can't create big plays on his own. As a complementary back or a change of pace guy he might be a good choice. But if you are depending on him as the main man for the course of a season, I think you'll end up disappointed.

Still, Tim Ruskell and his staff disagree, and we may have just witnessed the changing of the guard in Seattle. A new set of Sheriffs are in town.

Stay tuned to Seahawks.NET for more on this and other stories!


Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, and he writes NFL previews for the New York Sun. Feel free to e-mail Doug here.

Thanks again to David Halprin of Blogging the 'Boys for his assistance!