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Cowboys RB Jones could miss third game

IRVING, Texas (Oct. 26, 2005) -- When Julius Jones doesn't play, the Dallas Cowboys notice.

And Jones has made it easy to notice.

If the Cowboys running back misses his third straight start Oct. 30 against the Arizona Cardinals, it will mark his 11th inactive game in a brief career that's already weathered a bruised rib, bum shoulder and now a sprained ankle.

On Oct. 26, Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said his second-year starter was "questionable." Jones missed part of practice, and Parcells said he's not sure how Jones will hold up the rest of the week.

Bluntly asked if Jones was tough enough, Parcells responded as bluntly and more succinctly:

"Yes."

But on Oct. 24, Parcells hinted he may be worried about Jones, who the Cowboys drafted in the second round from Notre Dame last season in hopes of becoming their featured back for the long haul.

"He trains hard. I think he's a good running back," Parcells said. "But part of it is durability. That's the second critical factor for that position. Besides vision and instincts, that's the second critical factor. I'm not saying he's not durable.

"But I am concerned because next Sunday, if he misses that game, it'll be 11 1/2 games he's missed out of 24. You got to be a little concerned."

The Cowboys are 3-7 with Jones out of the lineup the past two seasons. Parcells said the running game lacks a certain degree of "elusiveness" without Jones, who had rushed for 407 yards and three touchdowns this season before leaving in the first half of the Cowboys 33-10 win against the Eagles on Oct. 9.

Without Jones -- who will get a bye week to heal after Sunday's game -- the Cowboys have leaned on a backfield-by-committee featuring rookies Marion Barber, Tyson Thompson and fifth-year veteran Anthony Thomas. Barber got the bulk of the action in Sunday's loss to the Seahawks, rushing for 95 yards on 22 carries.

Parcells wasn't ready -to name Barber as the top back behind Jones. But he said Barber also had some "elusiveness" and that he was doing well, other than his three fumbles.

Quarterback Drew Bledsoe and tight end Jason Witten think Barber has capably filled in. But that doesn't mean the offense isn't missing Jones.

"He can kind of take it and change the game for us," Witten said. "We miss him there. Marion's done a good job stepping up. But the big thing about Julius is that he can take a 2-yard gain and turn it into 10."

Though the Cowboys have favored a more conservative offense this season, only four of the Cowboys' 16 touchdowns have been rushing. It's an almost curious statistic for the Cowboys, who have mostly employed a ball-control approach.

Parcells said his team's knack for second- and third-and-longs might have prevented the Cowboys from "powering it" into the end zone thus far.

But when they do, and if Jones continues to sit out, there's a good chance Barber will get the call. The fourth-round pick from Minnesota is used to splitting time, since he shared his starting position in college with Laurence Maroney but still wound up with 1,269 yards last season.

"It's about being prepared," said Barber, who has rushed for 126 yards in 35 carries and has also proven to be an effective pass blocker. "In Minnesota I shared reps, of course, and it was no problem. You'll always get your opportunities."

Notes: Parcells said CB Anthony Henry (shoulder), who leads the Cowboys with 35 tackles, is probable for Sunday.

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