Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips has decided to have the NFC's Super Bowl favorite open the playoffs with a different look on offense. According to Cowboys sources, Pro Bowl running back Marion Barber will replace season-long starter Julius Jones in Sunday's game against the New York Giants.
It is not only something of a belated acknowledgement that Barber is the team's best runner, blocker and receiver out of the backfield but perhaps also an indication of how much the Cowboys intend to make the emotion that results from his punishing style a factor at Texas Stadium.
The Giants have won eight straight road games, losing only to the Cowboys in their season-opener at Texas Stadium.
Although Barber has not started a single game this season, he is responsible for all three of the Cowboys' individual 100-yard rushing performances. The Cowboys are 8-0 when Barber scores a rushing touchdown. He has 23 rushes for 99 yards and a touchdown in Dallas' two regular-season victories over the Giants.
"You see how excited he is when he gets up after every run -- even if he lost yardage,'' Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "He's one of the toughest backs in the league to bring down even though he's nowhere near being the biggest. You can't tackle that guy high because he'll run you over and he has that great stiff arm.''
Phillips informed Jones of the decision during the bye week so that he had time to recover from his disappointment. According to the source, Jones was upset with the decision and clearly not himself for several days. But he has apparently improved his attitude after being assured he will be rotated into the game and will continue to have the kind of plays he prefers as part of their game plan against the Giants.
Ed Werder covers the NFL for ESPN.