isn't too pretty. Plus, losing Newman means you lose a punt-return threat and who knows, maybe a guy who actually does catch passes this season. But at least there are two respectable alternatives now at cornerback with Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick battling it out for the starting right corner spot.
Same with Ware, a no-brain repeater, and especially now with Ellis gone, and really, the only other 3-4 outside linebacker with experience being Anthony Spencer, who would be making all of his seventh NFL start if he's the season-opening starter on Sept. 13. That's a lean position when it comes to experience, and no one has to qualify Ware's importance to this team, and not solely from a pass-rush standpoint. He is not a one-trick pony. I mean, who replaces Ware if he, heaven forbid, goes down? He's the man.
And while it's hard for me not to select Ware once again, I've got someone else in mind this year, and I keep going back to something Larry Lacewell once told me, that just give him 11 guys to play defense and he'll come up with enough unconventional schemes to at least give the team a chance to win. But what he always told me is, you can't fake offense.
So with that in mind, and undeniable visual proof from last year, the 2009 Dallas Cowboys' Mr. Indispensible is . . . .
What, you say, have you lost your mind? The guy might not even be a starter, and he's the guy the Cowboys simply can't do without? Crazy.
Or might I be just crazy smart.
Look back to last year, the abbreviated season for the rookie running back. The team's second first-round pick of 2008 touched the ball all of 48 times (runs, receptions, returns). Not much. But he scored four touchdowns, meaning he was ending up in the end zone every 12 touches. For deeper meaning to that number, consider starting running back Marion Barber touched the ball 290 times. He scored nine touchdowns. That means he scored a touchdown every 32.2 touches.
My guy, every 12.
But this argument is more than just touchdowns. We are talking about unmatched versatility. Felix can run the ball, he can catch the ball and he can return the ball.
And speed? Felix might be the fastest man on the field with the ball in his hands, maybe the team's only breakaway threat from the line of scrimmage. Who else, I ask?
Every team needs that threat, and we found out beyond a shadow of a doubt last year how much the Cowboys missed his production - and threat - after he first tore the hamstring in the third quarter of the Arizona loss, and then later suffered that toe injury during rehab which required season-ending surgery.
Why, before Felix went down, the Cowboys were a 4-1 team averaging 30 points a game. They ended up being a 5-6 team averaging 19 points a game without him.
Plus, just ask around. Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones is on record saying the injury to Felix Jones was the most debilitating one to the team last year. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will admit the complexion of the Cowboys offense changed when Felix went down.
Speed scores in the NFL, and that Cowboys had no one on offense after the loss of Felix Jones to scare defenses, to back them off the line of scrimmage for fear of someone taking it to the house on any one play, really impacted what they did - or didn't do the rest of the way. That left more people in the box against the run. That left more coverage on What's His Name. That also ended up being an open invitation to blitz, the 31 sacks suffered not even a close indication of how much pressure was being put on Cowboys quarterbacks.
The Cowboys desperately need Felix Jones on the field this year. They need his 8.9 yards per carry of last year. Jones registered two of the team's top four plays from scrimmage last season, the 60-yard touchdown run at Green Bay the longest and the 33-yard run against Cincinnati fourth longest. They need his team-long 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, helping him to that 27.1-yard average on just 16 returns.
And most of all they need his versatility. Even when he wasn't touching the ball, just lining him