By CLARENCE E. HILL JR.
Star-Telegram staff writer
IRVING - Julius Jones wasn't trying to make a point or draw attention.
A quiet unassuming sort, Jones is not a limelight kind of guy. He was just matter-of-factly stating his goals for 2005.
After rushing for 819 yards and seven touchdowns in roughly half a season as a rookie last year, Jones has his sights set on 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns for his sophomore encore.
"That's what I am shooting for, 1,700 and 20," Jones said. "I set my goals high."
How about Emmitt Smith and the Cowboys' season rushing record high. Those are the numbers Jones will be threatening if he achieves his goal in 2005.
Smith, the league's all-time leading rusher and recent selection into the Cowboys' hallowed Ring of Honor, is the only player in team history to have rushed for more than 1,700 yards in a single season. Smith did it twice with 1,713 in 1992 and 1,773 in 1995.
Not only does Smith hold the single-season touchdown record of 25 touchdowns, but he is the only Cowboys player to rush for 18 or more touchdowns in a season with 18 in 1992, 21 in 1994 and 25 in 1995.
Jones was not necessarily targeting Smith when he set his goals for 2005, but he's not backing down now.
"I have always set big goals for myself," Jones says. "I have confidence in myself."
After the way he finished 2004, Jones is already being touted as the next great Cowboys running back.
The former second-round pick from Notre Dame played in only eight games as a rookie.
A preseason rib injury kept him off the field for the season opener before a broken shoulder blade in Week 2 sidelined him for seven more games.
But when Jones finally got on the field for the final seven games, few backs in the league brought more excitement and optimism for the future.
A 30-carry, 81-yard effort in his first game against Baltimore was a glorified trial run to prove he was healed.
The 5-foot-9 speedster followed with two breathtaking performances on national television. He rushed 33 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns in a Thanksgiving Day victory against the Bears before topping it with 30 carries for 198 yards and three touchdowns in a 43-39 overtime victory against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
Jones became only the second back in NFL History (Hall of Famer Earl Campbell was the first) to carry the ball at least 30 times in three consecutive games. His total over the final seven weeks, including 149 yards in the season finale against the Giants, was 803 yards and seven touchdowns.
Jones' play was one of the few bright spots during a 6-10 season. And despite all the changes made by the Cowboys in the off-season -- namely the addition of four starters in free agency and two first-round draft picks -- any hopes of a possible turnaround in 2005 center on Jones picking up where he left off.
"Julius really does give us confidence," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "I feel, with his skill and the way he has worked, we will be able to run the football. He made our offensive line better. It starts with him."
Cowboys coach Bill Parcells is of a similar mind-set. He believes Jones will be even better in 2005 because he will be a smarter football player.
"Julius has a heck of a lot better idea on what it takes to be a running back in the NFL," Parcells said during minicamp in June. "I see Julius doing things right now that he would never do last year."
But Parcells being Parcells, he is not about to let Jones get too full of himself. Not even when legendary running back Jim Brown offers up accolades that hint of potential greatness.
"Julius is a real fine runner," said Brown, who chatted up Jones and Parcells during an autograph show in Arlington on Saturday. "The quickness, the lateral movement, the acceleration -- he has it all, really. He caught my eye. I don't know what his potential is going to be, but he's got the stuff. He's got it. He's legitimate. He could be a great one."
Parcells needled Jones to no end.
"Now you are the great Julius Jones?," Parcells said. "How about the potentially good Julius Jones? How about that?"
Parcells' point was certainly understandable. Players have to do it for more than one year to be great. And you have to be on the field for more than eight games for your team to truly count on you.
Jones knows where Parcells is coming from.
After having his toughness questioned last season because of the injuries, it's what has driven him all off-season.
And more than getting 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns, his goal is proving to everyone he can be counted on for 16 games.
To that end, Jones has dropped five pounds from last season's playing weight of 217 while adding muscle mass.
"Last year, I was kind of shriveled up after I broke my shoulder," Jones said. "I got back in the weight room and put on some bulk.
"I want to play 16 games and show everybody I am ready to stay out there the whole season. I want to shut that mess up. I don't want there to be no questions about my durability."
If Jones plays for16 games the way he did the final seven last season, there will be no questions about his goals for 2005, either.
His 114.7 yards per game average over the final seven projects to 1,835 over 16 games.
Maybe Jones didn't set his goals high enough?
Cowboys running back Julius Jones is beginning his second season in the NFL and his play already has caught the attention of three Pro Football Hall of Famers: Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and Earl Campbell.
Here's what they had to say:
"Julius is a real fine runner. The quickness, the lateral movement, the acceleration -- he has it all, really. He caught my eye. I don't know what his potential is going to be, but he's got the stuff. He's got it. He's legitimate. He could be a great one."
"He can play. Will he be a great running back? It's hard to say. It really is. You need other people around you. You don't do it by yourself. Does he have enough good offensive linemen around him? Does he have receivers that can take some pressure off him? It's hard to say. He had a decent year last year. He's not the quickest back I've seen. He knows how to read blocks and things like that. I just haven't seen enough of him."
"I think he's got a good future. I think the key thing is going to be how he takes care of himself in the off-season and how he dedicates himself to working out. I am a fan of his, and I did watch him play a lot last year. I think [coach Bill] Parcells took a long time saying, 'I wish I had a running back.' Now he's got one."
I am exited to see what he does this year,lofty goals though,especially since everyone thinks that the a-train will be in around the goaline :scratch: