In five short years, former Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones has gone from a first-round pick with aspirations of filling the shoes left behind when Emmitt Smith took his act to the Arizona Cardinals, to a mid-May signing as camp competition with the Philadelphia Eagles, a hated division rival.
But considering the fact that Jones has never rushed for more than 800 yards or three touchdowns in a single season—and not even the same season—and accounted for a combined four touchdowns receiving and as a kick returner during his five years in Dallas, it’s not exactly surprising.
It’s also not surprising that Jones enters camp with the Eagles penciled in as the third running back on what amounts to a tryout. Jones will almost certainly make it into camp and get a chance to compete there, as well as in preseason games, but there’s not guarantees after that.
The fact that Jones was a first-round pick stopped meaning a whole lot sometime around the middle of 2009, and his odds of making the team are probably right on par with the undrafted rookies also fighting for spots behind superstar LeSean McCoy and the impressive-but-raw Bryce Brown.
Throw Chris Polk into that mix and just making the final 53-man roster would be a success.
Jones has more experience than any running back currently on the roster, but it’s not like he comes in familiar with Chip Kelly’s system. So ultimately his playing experience, especially considering the unspectacular production, really doesn’t help him all that much.
If he wants to make the final roster and contribute to Kelly’s Eagles in a meaningful way, he will have to show that his pass protection has improved so Kelly feels comfortable inserting him on third down, as well as show soft hands and a willingness—borderline eagerness—to play special teams, and not only as a returner.
At 26 years old with limited use, there could still be untapped potential in the clearly-athletic Jones. Perhaps he’s able to pick up Kelly’s system quickly and find his niche, but ultimately it would come as a shock to me if Jones is able to earn a spot on the final 53 given the young talent also fighting for a spot at his position on a team clearly in a rebuilding mode.