Former Lineman Ed Jones Keeping A Close Eye On Defense
By Rob Phillips
DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
June 7, 2005, 5:51 PM (CDT)
- He played the flex defense under Landry and a straight 4-3 under Jimmy. Any other scheme would have been un-American for America's Team.
But it appears Edward Lee Jones, A.K.A. "Too Tall" during his 15-year career with the Cowboys and a prominent member of the franchise's old guard, will witness a dramatic change in defensive philosophy for the first time in its illustrious 46-year history.
"It'll be like night and day," said the former All-Pro defensive end who took part in the team's annual scramble tournament at Cowboys Golf Course in May. "To see Dallas in a 3-4 front will be totally different. And I've been around football watching the 3-4 a lot with other teams. But it will be very odd watching Dallas play a 3-4."
The Cowboys certainly appear headed in that direction, having lined up strictly in a 3-4 during four of their five mini-camp practices here at Valley Ranch last month. Jones, who remains an avid Cowboys fan, will have to watch a different defense than the one he played in and continued to follow after retiring following the 1989 season.
But after watching him take a few digs on the back nine, Jones still looked capable of making Drew Bledsoe scramble for his life at 54 years young.
"Too Tall" intimidated opponents with his 6-9, 275-pound frame for nearly two decades (1974-78, 1980-89). A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Jones finished his unprecedented 15-year career with 1,032 tackles, 105 sacks and 19 fumble recoveries. He set team records for most career games played (224) and started (203) and would have stood alone as the longest-tenured Cowboy had he not sat out the 1979 season to pursue a boxing career.
The Cowboys have drafted a slew of defensive ends since 1983 - Jones' ninth season in the league - with little success. Fifteen to be exact. And only Jim Jeffcoat, their first-round pick in '83, Tony Tolbert and Greg Ellis developed into productive players.
"They've drafted seven No. 1 players here with good size and good speed," said Jones, who still dabbles in the boxing business and started Team Jones Inc., a talent booking and promotion agency. "It just didn't pan out, and that just happens. If you've followed the sport over the years, it happens with different teams at different positions. And Dallas just happens to be going through one of those phases where our defensive ends haven't performed up to the level that our scouts and coaches felt they should have."
The Cowboys certainly could use more Too Talls. No player on the team finished with double-digit sacks in 2004, though Ellis came close with nine, and none has done so since Tony Tolbert (12) in 1996. That's why Dallas stocked its draft fridge with versatile defensive players in anticipation of the switch to the 3-4 scheme that head coach Bill Parcells has employed throughout his career.
Jones believes top picks Demarcus Ware and Marcus Spears will make the transition easier. Spears is an ideal 3-4 defensive end who can slide over to nose tackle, while Ware has practiced at right outside linebacker but could line up as a rush end in the 4-3 on passing situations.
"The first thing I look at is speed, even before size," Jones said. "They have NFL speed to take it to any level they want, and I'm talking about superstar status. They have the speed, No. 1, and No. 2, they also have the quickness and the size. I have found though that size doesn't really matter much anymore if you've got that burning desire inside [and] if you've got the speed along with it."
The Cowboys' new depth on the defensive line will translate into less plays for veterans like Ellis and defensive tackle La'Roi Glover. Parcells wants Glover involved in 60-65 percent of the plays this season, and Ellis' load should be reduced as well, hopefully to keep both fresher in the fourth quarter.
Jones can't help but chuckle at the play ratio in today's NFL. He never had that luxury during his career - not even in 1988, when he played in 98 percent of the Cowboys' defensive plays at the ripe age of 37.
Simply put, Jones was a physical marvel. He played every game of his career and only missed his first practice when his mother died during the 1989 season. The man claims to have never missed a game in any sport, at any level.
But even an ageless wonder like Jones believes a deep line rotation featuring Spears, Jason Ferguson, Leo Carson, possibly Chris Canty and Ware on occasion should benefit guys like Ellis and Glover, who rarely reached the sideline last season with the opponent's offense still on the field.
"When I played I played four quarters and didn't come off the field," Jones said. "If we had blown somebody out, I might get a five-minute break at the end. But now these players are playing a certain number of plays, and anytime you have quality backups, a guy can go out there and sell out. He can give you 110 percent every time the ball is snapped, but he needs to know that his backup can come in and get the job done.
"That weighs heavy on you, the football player. I don't care what they say. If your starter knows he's got a guy that can fill in behind him and get the job done, he's gonna sell out. But if he doesn't think his backup is a quality player, first of all he doesn't know how many plays he's gonna have to play. He doesn't know if he's gonna have to play three-quarters of the plays or all the plays."
Take it from Ed Jones, who has seen his share of football. He's excited about the Cowboys' additions on defense but cautions the roster turnover might cause chemistry to develop gradually.
"Guys have to know each other and trust each other, even at that level," Jones said. "With all that talent you still have to trust the people around you. You have to believe in the people around you. Only way that's going to happen is through repetition, guys playing together."
Maybe not for 15 years, but at least a few weeks.
1. Redskins - Check
2. Dolphins - Check
3. Arizona -