Friday, October 30, 2009

Weekly Freakout: Marion Barber

Posted By Bill Bender 11:28 AM

I remember wanting to take Marion Barber in the first round of my last experts draft. I struggled with it up until it was my turn to make the last pick of the first round.

Should I do it? Should I do it? In the end, I chose Steve Slaton. Barber owners probably will tell you I made the right choice.

Barber (pictured) has struggled since returning from a quad injury, and it seems likes it’s only a matter of time before Felix Jones takes over the spotlight in Dallas. Is this true? Is it true?

Let’s take a closer look.

Barber averaged 101.5 rushing yards with two TDs in Weeks 1-2. At that point, I was kicking myself. Then he suffered a quad injury and missed Week 3.

In three games since returning -- with a bye week tucked in -- Barber is averaging 47.0 rushing yards per game with just one TD. He’s averaging 3.5 yards per carry in that stretch.

Another disturbing trend is Barber’s lack of involvement in the passing game. He has just five receptions for 59 yards this season. In 2008, Barber had a career-high 52 receptions for 417 yards. He’s on pace for 157 receiving yards.

So yes, Barber’s struggles are worrisome.

But Jones will be the bigger problem. Never underestimate Jerry Jones’ role in the team's plans. Christopher Walken wanted more cowbell. Jones wants more Felix Jones. The second-year back from Arkansas regained backup duties from Tashard Choice, who also had been effective in his own right.

Had Jones not suffered a knee injury in Week 3, he would be in the starting lineup. Dude is averaging 8.6 yards per carry. Don’t be surprised to see an even split against the Seahawks this week.

That’s not to say you should write Barber off this week (or for the rest of the season). Let’s answer those one at a time.

This week? The Seahawks have a mediocre run defense; they are ranked 14th in that department, but they allow 4.3 yards per rushing attempt.

Barber had 45 total yards and a TD against Seattle last Thanksgiving. Pencil Barber in for 60 total yards and a TD, but pay close attention to how much (and how quickly) the Cowboys turn to Jones.

Rest of season? Jones looks great now, but Barber will be needed over the next five weeks. Dallas does a round-robin tour of the NFC East, with trips to New York and Philadelphia. The Cowboys also visit Lambeau Field in a game that likely will have playoff implications. Experience matters in big games. That’s why Barber will still touch the ball in the red zone. I say hold on to him, but expect RB2 and sometimes flex production moving forward.

Your thoughts? Would you rather have Barber or Jones? Will you trade Barber before your league’s trade deadline?