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News » Barber, Jones making quite a team in Dallas 2008-09-28

Barber, Jones making quite a team in Dallas 2008-09-28

Barber, Jones making quite a team in Dallas 2008-09-28
IRVING, Texas - One running back plays with such ferocity that his nickname is "The Barbarian."

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The other is so fast that Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips says he can "go the distance at any time."

Put the two together and you get one of the NFL's most dangerous ground attacks.

Marion Barber and Felix Jones have played in only three games together but the duo hasn't needed long to shine. Barber is coming off the most productive game of his four-year NFL career, grinding out 142 yards in last Sunday's 27-16 victory at Green Bay. Jones did his part with a 60-yard touchdown run, becoming the first Cowboys rookie to score in his first three NFL contests.

Such productivity is a major reason why Dallas (3-0) takes the NFL's top-ranked offense into Sunday's home game against Washington.

"We're able to create a lot of different things offensively because they're so good," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "It adds to what we have in the passing game. It's a great combination because you can just take what the defense gives you."

Barber and Jones bring different physical tools to the Cowboys' offense, but their approach toward football is strikingly similar. This became evident Friday during the first sit-down interview Barber and Jones have ever conducted together.

Neither is seeking the media spotlight. Barber's soft-spoken nature belies his flamboyant dreadlocked hairstyle. Barber detests speaking in front of television cameras or talking about his personal accomplishments. He even tries to remain low key with teammates, although Barber admits he'll occasionally try to "slide in" some humor.

"When I come to work, I'm like, 'Dang, we've got work to do,'" said Barber, whose intensity extends to the weight room between practices. "I don't try to show that (fun) side. (Jones) is the same way.

"He's like I was when I first came in. I tried to lead by example, not say too much and just listen to everybody. He's already an athlete coming in. He makes it look easy."

Jones registered an 11-yard touchdown on his first NFL carry at Cleveland, then contributed a 98-yard kickoff return for another score the next game against Philadelphia. Barber became so excited during Jones' touchdown run against Green Bay that he ran along the sideline so he could celebrate with his protégé in the end zone.

"Barber is a great mentor," Jones said. "He shows you with his actions what you need to do to be a great player. It's his work ethic. Right after practice, he's got more to do. That shows that you need to step your game up and get better every day."

Barber and Jones also click because they share similar pasts. Both have spent the majority of their college and NFL careers sharing carries with others.

Jones averaged 7.7 yards per attempt at the University of Arkansas but was overshadowed by teammate Darren McFadden. Jones lasted until the 22nd pick in April's draft while Oakland chose McFadden at No. 4.

Barber also began checking his ego in college while splitting playing time at the University of Minnesota with New England's Laurence Maroney. He was a fourth-round draft pick in 2005 and then served as Julius Jones' backup during his first three NFL seasons even after clearly emerging as the better running back. In 2007, Barber enjoyed the rare distinction of being voted to the Pro Bowl despite not starting until Dallas' second-round playoff loss to the New York Giants.

Barber never publicly complained about his second-string status or let it affect his approach, which is advice he has tried passing along to Maroney.

"Even when he didn't start, I was like, 'Dog, you're going to be productive anyway,'" Barber said. "Last year, I didn't start. But whether it's one play or 20 plays, make something happen on every play. That's how I play the game.

"I don't think it's any different now. I prepare the same. I go out and work hard every day the same. They just label the starter but I'm still the same person."

Dallas paid Barber like a starter this offseason, signing him to a seven-year, $45 million contract. But the Cowboys also know that Barber's punishing style combined with a heavier workload could cause him to wear down over the course of an entire season. That's why Felix Jones was drafted to replace the departed Julius Jones (Seattle).

The Cowboys have given Barber the majority of the snaps so far this season but will increase Jones' playing time as he becomes more comfortable with the team's playbook. The Cowboys also are expected to begin aligning Jones as a slot receiver and occasionally pairing him with Barber on the field at the same time.

"He gives you the complement of being a home-run hitter," Phillips said of Jones. "We think we can sometimes get them both in the game and give some teams problems or spell Marion some."

Such scheming will cause even more headaches for defenses that already have to worry about all-star players at other positions like Witten, quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Terrell Owens. Barber, though, says he and Jones aren't thinking about the future.

"It's exciting," Barber said. "But we've just got to worry about what we're doing right now."

So far, that's winning.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 28, 2008

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