Unfortunately, injuries are just a part of the game. The Dallas Cowboys know that, but they recently saw another example of how crushing an injury can be for their football team. Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford was supposed to be a big piece of the new 4-3 defense that defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is installing. Crawford suffered a torn Achilles injury just a few hours into practice and instantly changed the landscape of the defensive line.
In Nick Eatman's article on the mothership, Stephen Jones' comments suggest that the front office held Crawford in very high regard because of his versatility and ability to play multiple positions on the line.
"He’s a guy that can play end and tackle," Jones said. "It just makes you sick because we really had high hopes for him this year."
As for his replacement, Stephen Jones also believes that his replacement is already on the roster.
"The guy that will replace Crawford is already on the roster," Jones said. "We certainly like the guys on our roster better than anyone that is out there."
Jones is really going hard on the "better than anyone that is out there" because I have a real hard time swallowing that pill. Yesterday the team signed former South Florida standout George Selvie, but while he was a beast in college, his NFL career has been nothing similar. Options on the market include John Abraham, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Richard Seymour. They are older and experienced, and they would offer this team some sort of help if DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer were to gone down for any significant amount of time.
In Todd Archer's recent Five Wonders post on ESPN, he ponders the question of Jason Hatcher playing some defensive end, and that is an excellent idea. But as Archer elaborates on, Dallas would still need another pressure player for their defensive line.
The Cowboys say they will keep their search for defensive end help largely inside the building with Tyrone Crawford out for the year with a torn Achilles. While some of you want to go out and sign a John Abraham or even a Richard Seymour, I wonder if the Cowboys might give Jason Hatcher a look at defensive end. It’s a two-for-one move to a degree and that’s never good. You might be taking away a strength at tackle. But Hatcher might have the ability to spell Anthony Spencer from time to time the way Crawford would and Sean Lissemore could play more tackle in pass rushing situations. Hatcher said he would be open to a move if needed.
From a pass rushing standpoint Abraham would make a lot of sense. He's a savvy vet who can still get after the quarterback. The negatives include probably a lofty price tag and his age (35), but the positives would give the Cowboys a dangerous third down pass rusher and a player who had 32.5 sacks the past three seasons. He's far from washed up, he just may be too costly and force the organization to dig deep into their pockets.
Seymour has always been an interesting option for the Cowboys, but would they finally decide to bring him in now? He has position versatility and valuable experience in different defenses.
In another Nick Eatman article, Jason Garrett talked about players having to take advantage of the opportunities given to them when an injured teammate goes down.
"There are some young guys we have who we want to see. We want to see a lot more of those guys play," Garrett said. "We saw some of them play in the spring and we’ll get a chance to see more of them now that we have the pads on starting (Tuesday). Really, it’s just an opportunity for them to show us what they can do. If they do that, they earn more of our trust and we give them more opportunities. You know the names of the guys who have been mixing in there. When you have a couple of different injuries in the defensive line and you play this scheme, you start talking about position flex."
Remember that Dallas opted not to bring in any defensive ends or tackles through the draft. Passing on prospects like Sharrif Floyd gave a strong vote of confidence for the veterans and young players already on the defensive line.
After Ware and Spencer, Crawford was supposed to be that guy who came off the bench and supplied the team with another pass rusher. Now that he is gone, that role is passed down to Ben Bass or Kyle Wilber. Maybe they step up and give us 5-8 sacks like I had expected to see from Crawford this season, but that isn't guaranteed.
Without Crawford, Dallas has the option to sign a quality veteran and pay that man to come in and give them a rotational player. If they don't want to spend the money on that price tag, then the Cowboys will be forced to use what they already have. If Bass or Wilber succeed in that role, then the internal growth is great and then we can continue to keep the homegrown tradition, but there is a lot of hoping going on here. Neither player possesses elite athleticism, size or experience.
The coaching staff and players on this team knew how much Crawford meant to the defense. Don't take my word for it, just take Jason Hatcher's recent comments from Carlos Mendez's article and run with it. He knew what that young man meant to the depth and rotation of the line.
"Because we need that guy, man. That guy was coming on," Hatcher said. "He was coming into his own. He’s got scary potential if he can just get back. Even if he’s done, he’s going to be a great player in this league. We’re going to pray for him. He’s going to be OK."
If I were the Cowboys, I would seriously take some money out of the team bank account and pay a veteran with talent. Dallas needs more proven players along the defensive line, no matter the cost. This is why I promoted the idea of drafting a defensive tackle and defensive end, we needed them then and now the lack of depth especially at end is staring right back at us.
Without proper depth and rotation along the line, it could be a long season in store for the Cowboys and their new 4-3 defense. These types of systems need pass pressure to succeed. Without pressure from the lineman, the scheme may fail miserably.