|Julius Jones begins replacing Alexander|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 02 May 2008 15:35|
Lightning-like bolts through the line. Muscles that bulged from his compact physique, from beneath his rolled up jersey sleeves and gym shorts.
No tiptoeing into the line. No baggy sweat pants that billowed to tops of his shoes. Nothing like the look of the allegedly soft Shaun Alexander, who for the first time since 2001 was not Seattle's main man in the backfield.
``It feels good. Feels good. New team. Fresh start,'' said the 26-year-old Jones, last seen fading far behind Pro Bowl back Marion Barber in the Dallas Cowboys' postseason plans four months ago.
The Seahawks resurrected Jones' career this offseason by signing him to a four-year contract worth almost $12 million to replace Alexander. The former league MVP, who turns 31 in August, is now unemployed and reportedly heading to Cincinnati for a tryout.
Jones, at 5-feet-11 and 211 pounds, is the centerpiece to Seattle's remodel of its condemned running game. The Seahawks also signed bruising runner T.J. Duckett, hired former Kansas City offensive coordinator Mike Solari as offensive line coach and signed former Pro Bowl offensive guard Mike Wahle from Carolina.
The Seahawks' idea is that where Alexander waited for running lanes that were slow to develop behind an iffy offensive line, Jones will simply burst through to seize his own.
``I like the uniforms. I like the jerseys. I like everything about it,'' Jones said Friday after his first minicamp practice.
He even likes the potentially awkward transition with the injured, aging Alexander, whom Seattle waived two weeks ago. Jones said that was smooth and cordial. The fact the two knew each other through Jones' older brother Thomas, a running back with the New York Jets, helped.
``I saw Shaun in here a couple times, just walking through the locker room. He was getting treatment,'' Julius Jones said. ``I went in and said hello to him. We exchanged numbers. He invited me to his church.
``Not awkward at all.''
Then he deferred to Seattle's all-time leading rusher.
``I've got a lot to live up to,'' Jones said. ``With Shaun doing the things that he did here, obviously I want to come in here and try to make some of the same accomplishments that he's done.''
On Day One, Jones was already a polar opposite of Alexander. Besides the running style and physique that many in Dallas inevitably compared to Emmitt Smith's, Jones also caught pass after pass that new running backs coach Kasey Dunn continually fired to him.
In his final two seasons following his record-breaking MVP year, Alexander was a liability in the passing game. Last season he rarely played on third downs, unless it was short-yardage - and he often failed in those situations, too.
Jones said he already notices a difference from his role in Dallas, where he caught 35 passes in 2005 and 23 last season.
``There is a little bit more emphasis on getting out and catching the ball,'' he said.
Predictably, coach Mike Holmgren's famously intricate offense is a foreign language to Jones compared to the terminology used by Bill Parcells and, last season, Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
``I've got a lot to learn,'' he said, chuckling. ``But I'm a smart guy. I went to Notre Dame, so I'll pick it up.''
Ask Jones what turned him in a few months from a starter who owned the Cowboys' first 1,000-yard season since Smith's in 2001 into an unwanted castoff, and he shakes his head.
``I don't really know how to explain that,'' he said. ``They just wanted to go in a different direction. They did that.
``I'm thankful for the Cowboys drafting me. They gave me a shot in the NFL. Other than that, I'm done with Dallas. I've moved on.''
Parcells loved having Barber as his hammer off the bench later in games. Phillips liked that, too. While Barber soared, Jones' contract expired in silence. Jones rushed for only 588 yards and two touchdowns last season, the lowest numbers of his career.
``I was really just playing first and second, softening them up and then out of the game the rest of the game,'' Jones said. ``I kind of knew what the situation was. You take it on the chin and move on.''
Now Barber is even more of a budding star than Jones used to be in Dallas, with rookie first-round pick Felix Jones in the role Barber used to have behind Jones.
``I'm extremely motivated,'' Jones said. ``It just made me stronger, to sit back and have that happen to you. I'm thankful for the Seahawks giving me an opportunity to compete for a job. And I'm going to run with it.''
Just don't ask him whether he is going from oblivion in Dallas to savior of Seattle's running game.
``I don't know about being a savior, man,'' Jones said, laughing. ``I'm just going to do what I do. I'm going to do what I did in Dallas. I think that was a good job. I'm just going to try to continue it here.''