With 109 yards rushing in Thursday night’s win over the Bills, Jets running back Thomas Jones surpassed 1,000 yards for the fifth time in his career — and for the fifth straight season.
As pointed out by the Jets in a comprehensive post-game notes release, he’s one of only three active NFL running backs with five or more consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards or more rushing.
Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson has landed in four digits for eight straight seasons. Steven Jackson of the Rams has done it five straight years, too.
And Jones quietly is climbing the middle rungs of the all-time rushing ladder. He now has 8,883 career rushing yards, good for 29th on the NFL’s list.
He’d have even more if his career had gotten off to a better start. Drafted fifth overall by the Cardinals in 2000, Jones was regarded as a bust after generating a total of 1,264 yards in his first three seasons, with per-carry averages of 3.3, 3.4, and 3.7 in 2000, 2001, and 2002 respectively.
In 2003, Jones was traded straight up to the Bucs for receiver Marquise Walker. In Tampa, Jones rushed for a then-career-high 627 yards, with an average of 4.6 yards per carry.
The performance was enough to generate unexpected interest in Jones as a free agent. He landed in Chicago, where his career finally flourished.
In 2004, he churned up 948 yards, and then he started his run of 1,000-plus-yard seasons.
The Bears, after three seasons, traded Jones to the Jets for a flip-flopping of second-round draft picks, thanks to the decision to elevate Cedric Benson, the fifth overall pick in 2005. Three seasons later, it’s obvious that New York got the better of that one — especially since Benson was cut by the Bears after only one more season. (And the Bengals continue to say “thank you” for that.)
Jones inked a four-year $20 million contract upon joining the Jets, and he previously indicated unhappiness with the $900,000 payout in 2009. (He has yet to complain about the $13 million he received in 2007 and 2008 combined.) Jones has since quieted down and gone about his business.
Still, he’ll be 32 next year, and Jones is due to receive a $3 million roster bonus prior to the 2010 season. With Leon Washington and Shonn Greene also on the roster, Jones’ tenure with the Jets could be winding down.
If this is Jones’ last year in New York, he’s got a chance to make it his best one. He’s currently on pace for 1,424 rushing yards, which would best his 1,312 yards from 2008 and his career high of 1,335 from 2005, his second season with the Bears.