1975 Dallas Cowboys Player Rankings #14 Ed “Too Tall” Jones
Embalmed in football lore on the merits of a world-class rookie crop and an innovative flair in formation, the Dallas Cowboys’ off-season of 1975 is also distinguished for an under-the-radar move that would pay the franchise dividends for the next decade, and beyond. Tom Landry, his superior intellect stimulated by an incoming group of zealous youngsters and the potential advantages of the Shotgun formation, made another bold decision aimed at unleashing one of the team’s up-and-coming stars.
For a No. 1 overall draft pick, Ed “Too Tall” Jones had done all right in his first season with the Cowboys. But when the 6-foot-9-inch defensive end was informed during spring workouts that he would be switching sides with fellow end Harvey Martin, expectations for Jones’ future performance sky-rocketed.
“Being moved to the strong side is the best thing that could have happened to me,” Jones said. “That’s the position I played all four years at college (Tennessee State). I feel more confident on the left side.”
His newfound confidence notwithstanding, Jones started slowly at his new position during training camp, a fact which coaches attributed in part to the rest of his linemates. Not only had Jones and Martin swapped spots, but Larry Cole had also made the move from end to tackle, giving the Cowboys three players along the defensive line playing in different positions than a year before. And when considering the fact that Jethro Pugh would be taking on the double-teams that Bob Lilly had absorbed for so long, all four Dallas starters in the trenches were, in fact, having to acclimate themselves to new roles.
Also having to acclimate themselves were Cowboy officials, who frequently made the mistake during camp of giving Ed “Too Tall” Jones the mail of Ed. S. Jones, a rookie defensive back out of Rutgers. Only by the team releasing Ed. S. Jones in early August did this problem finally get resolved.
Jones’ struggles spilled over into the preseason, but he came on strong in the fourth game versus the Oilers when he recorded a pair of sacks in a Dallas victory. “I think I was keying a little too much the first three games,” Jones said in late August. “Against Houston I was able to come off the ball faster.”
It wasn’t long after this outburst from Jones that the Dallas defensive line jelled as a unit, harassing Terry Bradshaw and Terry Hanratty throughout the preseason finale, allowing the Cowboys to overcome six offensive turnovers and rally for a one-point victory at Texas Stadium. Using this performance as a launching pad, Jones and the Cowboys rolled into the regular season opener where they flattened the favored Rams 18-7, sparking a four-game winning streak out of the gates.
The flip-flopping of the Cowboys’ pass-rushing bookends was a key component of the Cowboys’ fast start to the 1975 season, as opposing signal-callers not only struggled to avoid the blindside presence of Martin but the impossible sight that left the backfield shadowed from the other side. An NFL quarterback’s version of a Bloody Mary afternoon was to take the snap from center, turn to his right and attempt to peer over Jones’ towering figure. Their frustrations were often doubled when Jones then used his long arms to transform into a swat monster, batting balls down at the line of scrimmage with unprecedented success. This newfound knack, combined with his outstanding efforts in run support, helped to overshadow some of his struggles to reach the quarterback as frequently as some of his teammates.
Jones emerged from a mid-season slump in early November to help the Cowboys maintain pace in the NFC East with victories over New England and Philadelphia. One week later, Jones authored the biggest play of his sophomore campaign with a surprising theft of former teammate Craig Morton.
Locked in a defensive struggle in Irving and trailing the Cowboys 14-3, the Giants faced a third-and-goal from the Dallas 7-yard line. That’s when Morton’s pass toward the end-zone ran into the unlikely figure of the NFL’s tallest defender.
“We had a safety blitz and I had to cover the back man-to-man,” explained Jones after the game. “We drifted back and Craig threw it and it just happened to be in my reach and I caught it. It scared the daylights out of me.”
Jones’ first career interception snuffed out the final Giants threat of the afternoon, sealing Dallas’ third consecutive victory and setting the team in prime position to make a run at the playoffs going into December.