The Chicago Bears signed running back Kevin Jones to a one-year contract to help bolster their backfield depth, which was suspect following the reason of halfback Cedric Benson in early June. Jones was originally the 30th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Detroit Lions. The former Virginia Tech standout rushed for 1,133 yards during his rookie campaign, 906 of which came in the final eight games of the season. Jones failed to replicate the same success during his next three seasons, rushing for a combined 1,934 yards from 2005-07.
Injuries played a large role in Jones' struggles - he has missed 10 games since the 2005 season. He suffered ankle, elbow and shoulder injuries during his first two seasons and a Lisfranc injury in 2006, forcing him to finish the season on Injured Reserve. Last season, Jones tore his ACL during the Lions' Week 16 game.
The Lions decided to release Jones in early March, citing his recent injuries and contact situation (he was in the final year of his deal) as the reasons.
Jones joins a team that lacks an established running back. His main competition should come from rookie halfback Matt Forte and veteran running back Adrian N. Peterson (who has received only 284 carries during his six-year career). Jones will likely have an opportunity to earn a decent number of touches.
He turns 26 in August and is still relatively young. Jones is a versatile back who can be effective catching the ball out of the backfield with 93 receptions over the last two seasons. He can also run with power and be an effective goal-line option - he rushed for a career-high eight touchdowns last season.
Jones may also be entering 2008 with a chip on his shoulder. After being released, Jones could be looking to prove his worth as a NFL running back. He's also playing for a contract, as he only signed a one-year pact with the Bears.
Jones is only seven months removed from a torn ACL and has a well-deserved reputation as an injury-prone player. He is not a certainty to be ready for training camp and even could start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. In addition to injury concerns, Jones has roughly eight weeks to learn an entirely new offense before the season starts.
The Bears may not have a backfield bursting with established talent, but Jones could still face an uphill battle for playing time. Forte was already expected to win the starting job and Jones' signing is not likely to change that. Peterson is a versatile back who could also receive some playing time.
Even when Jones does find his way on the field, he will be playing behind a below-average offense line and with a weak supporting cast. Also, if the Bears continue to struggle moving the ball through the air, opposing defenses will likely focus on shutting down the run.
Fantasy football outlook
The Bears represented arguably the best destination for Jones. In Chicago, Jones should have an opportunity to get on the field and could end up playing a larger role than some expect. Forte is not known for his ability as a receiver out of the backfield, which is a role Jones could fill. He could also garner additional touches simply by spelling Forte and helping to keep him fresh throughout the season.
Then again, it is also possible Jones struggles to recover from injury and has an ineffective season. Thus, Jones represents a relatively high risk/moderate reward option. View him as a weak No. 4 or solid No. 5 back with some upside.
About Mike Mady
Mike Mady has been a KFFL contributor since 2005.
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