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Backs key to moving Dallas forward
By BOB BUTTITTA
August 3, 2004
When he coached the New York Giants, Bill Parcells had O.J. Anderson as a featured running back.
In New England with the Patriots and then with the New York Jets, Parcells used Curtis Martin as his workhorse running back.
In his first season with the Dallas Cowboys last year, Parcells had no running back he felt comfortable giving tons of carries.
That might change this season with veteran Eddie George and rookie Julius Jones on the roster.
George, signed just a few weeks ago, seemed to slip in his last few seasons with the Tennessee Titans, but he and Parcells think he's got plenty of gas left in the tank.
"I've already seen enough of Eddie George to know there is some tread left on that tire," Parcells said. "So I've got to be prudent there. I just want him to pace himself so that he'll be fresh in September."
Parcells' statement doesn't come as a surprise to George, who is confident he can make an impact this season.
"In this league, when a player gets toward the end of his career, there is that thought process that he's done," George said. "I don't think I've reached that point in my career.
"It's a matter of believing in yourself and taking care of your body. I am fortunate I have not had a lot of serious injuries and I have tried to take care of my body as best I can."
Jones comes in with plenty of expectations to help give life to the Dallas running attack.
After an inconsistent career at Notre Dame, Jones said he looks forward to the challenge of life in the NFL.
When asked about his philosophy of handling a rookie running back, Parcells said he just "throws them to the wolves."
In Martin's first preseason game with the Patriots, Parcells said he called eight straight running plays for him to open the game.
Is Jones ready for such treatment?
"I'm fine with that," Jones said. "I consider myself a tough running back so I am fine with it."
When asked about Jones' performance in camp so far, Parcells said he looked like a typical rookie, doing some things well and some things not so well.
"For a running back like Julius coming out of a primarily running-oriented school like Notre Dame, the tougher part of the transition comes in the passing game," Parcells said. "In the running game he seems to be OK, but in the passing game he needs work."
George has always been a workhorse, averaging 342 carries per season. But he averaged just a little more than three yards per carry. That statistic is something George feels is deceiving.
"I think you have to look at the whole scheme of things. I didn't get a lot of 24-carry games last year," George said. "In years prior it was the same where maybe I had 18 carries for 57 yards, but then if you break a big one in there, the yards per carry goes way up."
Parcells said he has a general idea of what he would like to do with the backs. Richie Anderson, who played for him with the Jets and joined him in Dallas last season, will also be in the mix.
Anderson can play halfback and fullback, and is a threat catching the ball out of the backfield.
"He's a solid pro and I like having him on the team," Parcells said. "He needs to know both positions, and mentally, I know he can do that. I think he can produce yardage for us. Last year when we gave him the ball he was productive."
Ideally, Parcells would like his team to run the ball around 32 or 33 times a game.
He said Anderson would get around five of those carries, leaving around 28 to be distributed among George, Jones or any of the other backs.
However, Parcells is leaving open the possibility of a No. 1 back.
"I have always been a coach that if I can get something going and it looks good, I will go with it," Parcells said. "(In those situations) I'm going to try and milk it until there's not much milk left."
(Contact Bob Buttitta of the Ventura County Star in California at www.venturacountystar.com