Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Julius Jones - Fumbled an Opportunity?

by: Chris Sullivan

The big knock against Julius Jones is that he fumbled too much. Well, sure, any fumbling is too much fumbling, that's obvious. Still, Jones fumbled four times last year and lost only two of those -- again, too much, but not obnoxiously so. He lost a fumble every 79 carries, comparable to Marion the Barbarian (every 79.3 carries) and far better than Adrian Peterson (51.9 carries = 1 lost fumble), but few people in Dallas or Minnesota are calling for their heads.

I think that the reason the fanbase has turned against Jones is twofold: 1) we never trusted him in the first place, and 2) he screwed up in Dallas and Holmgren refused to let him play. 

The first thing is important, though; when we signed Jones last year, many fans questioned the decision. Clearly he wasn't the best back in free agency and it could be (and was) argued that we were paying first back money for a guy who was basically the backup in Dallas for the two years prior. 

This was quickly forgotten when Mo Morris was injured and Jones lit up opposing defenses -- in the three weeks Morris was injured, Jones received 41% of his total carries for the year and gained 46% of his total yards. He also scored his only two touchdowns. In the first half of the year, Jones got 71.5% of his carries with less than 50 carries total coming in the second half of the year. In the last six weeks of Holmgren's sad, sad swan song, only 19 carries were given to Jones including two games in which he did not touch the ball despite being fully healthy. 

It also seems that many fans believe that Morris was the better back last year, but statistically that's not the case. They were basically on par with each other (4.41 ypc for Jones, 4.35 for Morris). Jones had two touchdowns, Morris had none; Jones had two fumbles lost, Morris had one. Call it even? I do. Here's a little graph of the Yards Per Carry for the 3 Hawk Backs last year:

Anyway, just some thoughts on the situation. I am fully prepared to give Julius Jones a genuine shot as our lead back in 2009. Will we draft a running back in the first three rounds? Yes, I think we will. Nevertheless, Jones went in and played well when given a chance and played very well when given an opportunity -- in games where he had over 15 carries, Jones averaged 5 yards per carry, including the game against the Giants.