Moving up and drafting Morris Claiborne took away the opportunity to get a productive player in the second round. So the Dallas Cowboys waited patiently until the 81st pick and in the third round selected Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford.
When the Crawford selection was announced, the first thought that popped into my head was "project". Then he began to turn it on in training camp, but when the regular season started Crawford didn't look like he was going to make an impact early on.
Crawford was used sparingly and for the most part had a non-productive year. Hopefully it was a learning experience which prepared him for what is to come next.
To consider his struggles, first take into account his overall lack of football experience. Coming from Canada, he had limited playing time in high school, then played at JUCO and finally spent two seasons at Boise State before entering the draft. That is a lot of moving around and shuffling around for a young and inexperienced player.
At Boise, Crawford usually took on a offensive tackle or a combo of tackle and tight end. In Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme last year, Tyrone played more of an inside role that took on heavier offensive guards. He went from playing in a base 4-3 defense in college where he was a defensive end to a 3-4 scheme that made him become a five-technique end. In an article written by Rowan Kavner on the mothership, Crawford talked about the schematics of where he lined up.
"I was playing inside last year playing against a guard," he said. "Now playing against a tackle every time or a tight end and a tackle, yeah, the tight end is not as heavy as the guard."
Rob Ryan and the 3-4 scheme are out, Monte Kiffin and the 4-3 are in. With this new change in defensive philosophy, we can get used to seeing Crawford line up at his natural role at defensive end. This will allow him to get up the field and attempt to rush the passer. After all, this is what he did best during his two seasons at Boise State where he racked up 13.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss.
The position change and new defensive scheme should enhance Crawford's natural ability. Speaking with Carlos Mendez of the Star Telegram, Crawford talked about his love for being on the outside.
"Yeah, I loved it in college. I loved playing on the outside in college," he said Wednesday after a mini-camp practice. "And then being able to go inside and play tackle a little bit. I’m happy we got into this year and are doing it."
Getting the young player comfortable with what he is doing is only going to bring out the best from him. The coaching staff has a physical specimen here, but they need to do some fine tuning and get Crawford's technique down pat. Last year he didn't get bullied around as much as one would expect, but there were times where his bad technique forced him into a difficult situation and kept him out of the play.
As of right now, Crawford is the backup to Anthony Spencer. The Cowboys got Tyrone down to 285 pounds, a weight both sides feel is comfortable and workable for the position. Last year the Cowboys had him play around with his weight. Now they have come to a conclusion on what will benefit both parties. Crawford is doing what is being asked of him, and he is taking the necessary steps to play wherever the Cowboys need him to.
In 2012, the pass rush wasn't very good outside of DeMarcus Ware and Spencer. It's scary to think about, but Ware isn't getting any younger and he was banged up a lot last year. If he were to go down, we need someone to step in and give the Cowboys a consistent pass rush. The same can be said for Spencer if he were to go down.
We really need another guy on the outside to come in and spell our starters. If that guy can be Crawford, then that is development and growth coming from within the organization. It's very early in his career, but with no other legitimate options on the roster, we need the former Boise State Bronco to take the next step and begin to give us some pressure and sacks.
I will leave you with this, this isn't Crawford's make or break season. Jason Hatcher took a very long time before he came on strong and now he is one of our best defensive lineman. While we may need to be patient with Crawford, at the same time we could definitely begin to see some production. I will be keeping a close eye on #98 this pre-season to see if he is coming a long.