The biggest story out of day one of training camp, aside from the RomoweightgainArmageddonextravaganza, was the worst news for any young player in the NFL. Defensive swing-lineman, Tyrone Crawford, was carted off with an apparent achilles injury, and early indications suggest he could be out for at least a large portion of the season... depending on the availability of deer antler spray in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Obviously this is a significant loss for the 'Boys, losing depth and youth on the defensive line - two things that they definitely lack. But lets take a look at the immediate impact this is going to have on the 2013 season.
Last season, in the 3-4 defense, Crawford played the d-end spot. He established himself as an effective rotation guy able to spell multiple positions along the line. Crawford logged 304 snaps last year, including 20 tackles and 5 quarterback pressures, but no sacks. According to Football Outsiders, Crawford was a slightly below average defensive end, even against the run. In the 19 run plays that Football Outsiders logged him in, he had a stop rate of 44%; that means that offenses were successful on 56% of those plays... which is actually not very good. Crawford's closest comparison in terms of team impact was Kheeston Randall from the Miami Dolphins... ever heard of him?
This season, Crawford was projected to play primarily at the strong side defensive end spot, while getting snaps sprinkled in along the other defensive line spots. Comments from Cowboys' staff, coaches and players indicate that they believed Crawford was going to make a jump in his second season, but playing behind Ware and Spencer (injuries not withstanding...yes I see the irony in this), he would have seen his snaps diminish from last year thus minimizing a lot of the impact from Crawford's progression.
It may seem like I am making the case that the Cowboys won't miss Crawford at all. And while I do feel that Crawford's production will be able to be supplemented by the likes of Kyle Wilber, Ben Bass and a veteran free agent to be named later, the Cowboys will miss Crawford's size (6-4 280), athleticism and youth. The biggest effect will be felt a year from now. All indications point to this being Anthony Spencer's last season in Dallas. This season would have been a big year for Crawford to gain experience and comfort so that he could step right into that strong side defensive end spot in 2014.