How much work can Felix Jones handle?

IRVING, Texas – When the Cowboys lost DeMarco Murray for the season in 2011 to a fractured ankle, they turned the keys to the running game over to Felix Jones.

With Murray out this week at Carolina and possibly longer with a sprained foot, the Cowboys again will turn their attention to Jones.

But how much work can they give Jones?

Jones has only two 20-carry games in his five seasons, while Murray has six in his first two seasons.

In the final five games last season, Jones carried 53 times for 268 yards, with 106 yards against the New York Giants on 16 carries and 108 yards on 22 carries against Tampa Bay.

“He’s shown he can run inside and he can run outside,” coach Jason Garrett said. “I think we also saw other guys, like (Phillip) Tanner the other day, go in the ballgame and get his carries against that defense and have some positive success, as well. You have to go next man up. We feel really good about Felix Jones. He’s been a really good football player for us the last four years.”

Garrett said Jones and Tanner will split the running back duties with Lance Dunbar serving as a “pinch hitter” because a three-man rotation does not allow the top two backs to get into the flow of a game.

Jones had a poor start to the regular season after a poor start to training camp after failing the conditioning test. Garrett put much of Jones’ early woes on offseason shoulder surgery that kept Jones from running, but he believes Jones is ready now.

“He’s worked his way back through training camp and got some opportunities the other day and showed what he can do,” Garrett said.

Jones carried 18 times for 92 yards and had a touchdown against Baltimore.

Garrett said Jones will also continue to handle kickoff returns even if that seems impractical, while also having Dunbar practice some there.

“But you always want to have a guy rotate through if you feel it’s too much work on offense,” Garrett said.