Yes, he is 31. Yes, he has been running behind a fantastic offensive line. But Thomas Jones — who will be released by the Jets very soon — is a special breed of workhorse. Just look at his stats over the past five seasons (year, team, games played, carries, yards, YPC):
- 2005 CHI 15 314 1335 4.3
- 2006 CHI 16 296 1210 4.1
- 2007 NYJ 16 310 1119 3.6
- 2008 NYJ 16 290 1312 4.5
- 2009 NYJ 16 331 1402 4.2
He’s carried the ball at least 290 times a game for each season the past five years for two different teams, yet has only missed one game and only averaged under four yards per carry once. Unlike Larry Johnson, dude has an unparalleled work ethic. He’s a workout warrior whose weightlifting actually translates to on-field success. Obviously the oversold 300-carry rule doesn’t apply to Thomas Jones.
Jones has good hands and is an excellent pass blocker. He also isn’t a primadonna and has fit in well with other backs when sharing the workload. Personally, I feel he’s a much better compliment to Charles in Charge than Darren Sproles. Hey, I love Sproles — I freakin’ went to K-State. But Charles needs a punishing, physical inside runner who can also excel picking up blitzes to spell him. Sproles would be a pretty redundant addition — he and Charles do all the same things well.
I even like Jones better than LaDainian Tomlinson. He’s a late blooomer who genuinely seems to enjoy contact and the overall brutality of the NFL. I think he’s still got a lot more to prove than L.T. does as well. If he could help an up-and-coming team get to the Super Bowl (like he did the Bears and nearly did with the Jets), he would cement his status as an exceptional running back and not just another pretty good workhorse.
Couldn’t we get a couple more years out of Jones doing some tough running and blocking behind Jammal Charles while we groom a physical inside runner to be his successor? He’d only be taking on roughly half of his normal workload. I think he’s got it in him after watching him run this year.