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Despite Injury, DE Horace Jones was a Great Raider

Defensive end Horace Jones is one of the underrated Oakland Raiders of the 1970s
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Defensive end Horace Jones is one of the underrated Oakland Raiders of the 1970s, even though he had five solid seasons for the Silver and Black before an injury-shortened his career.

The 6-3, 255-pound Jones was a great pick for the Raiders in the 12th round (No. 305 overall) out of Louisville in the 1971 National Football League Draft and moved into the starting lineup as a rookie, making 11 starts and collecting 57 tackles including 31 solos, in addition, four sacks, forcing a fumble and defending against two passes.

Jones replaced injured Tony Cline that season opposite Raiders legend Ben Davidson at the other defensive end, and in 1972 Cline and Jones settled in as the starters, with Davidson moving inside to a defensive tackle spot.

That season, many believed Jones should have made the Pro Bowl as he collected 64 tackles, had 9½ sacks, and a 16 run-stuff performance, better numbers than Pro Bowler Elvin Bethea of the Houston Oilers, while Cline had 67 tackles and five sacks on the other side of the line.

Jones’ 16 run stuffs rank with the best of all-time, as in 2019 Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles led the NFL with 12, Jadeveon Clowney of the Houston Texans made3 13.5 in 2017, J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans had 16.5 in 2015, Jerome Brown of the Eagles totaled 17 in 1989, and Jack Youngblood of the Los Angeles Rams finished with 13.5 in 1973.

Cline and Jones nearly prevented the Pittsburgh Steelers’ famed “Immaculate Reception” that season as they were all over quarterback Terry Bradshaw before he got off a desperation pass that running back Franco Harris caught for a miraculous game-winning touchdown.

Unfortunately for Jones, the Raiders signed former star Bubba Smith of the Baltimore Colts after he tore up his knee in 1972, and Jones was relegated to a reserve role in 1973 when started only four games season, recorded only 13 tackles but still had 4½ sacks.

However, Jones was back in the starting lineup for all 14 games the following season and recorded 44 tackles and 6½ sacks while defending against four passes, forcing one fumble, and recovering three fumbles that he returned for 45 yards, but he saved his best season for 1975.

That year, Jones collected 58 total tackles, including 44 solos, had one pass defended, made a career-high 13 sacks, and deserved a Pro Bowl selection that he did not receive. Cline had 11 sacks from the other defensive end as the Raiders collected a total of 55 and a defensive passer rating of 37.2.

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The Raiders were 11-3 and won the AFC West that season, but they were beaten by the Steelers, 16-10, in the playoffs, 16-10, although you couldn’t blame Jones because he made several tackle in the game.

The Raiders went 13-1 in 1976, defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-7, in the American Football Conference Championship Game, and routed Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, in Super Bowl XI to win the NFL’s ultimate fame for the first time.

However, although Jones and Cline received Super Bowl rings, they were not really a part of it because both sustained knee injuries early in the season.

In 1977, Jones was making a comeback try with the Raiders during the preseason, and said: “I feel strong (but) I feel slow,” he was waived before the start of the season and signed with the Seattle Seahawks, but his career essentially was over.

In November, the Seahawks put Jones on waivers because his knee was not at full strength. He hoped to sign with another team for the 1978 season, but in April he was hospitalized because of an infection in his surgically repaired knee and a few months later announced his retirement.

Still, Jones did very well for a 12th-round draft choice, No. 305 overall, by collecting 37½ sacks in 70 games, and with a few breaks and had he not been injured, he could have been one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever wear the Silver and Black.

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