Between themselves DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer accounted for 22.5 of the 34 sacks the Cowboys racked up in 2012. For 2013, the tandem should once again be the top producing sack artists; especially since the new defensive philosophy will allow both men to pin their ears back and rush the passer more often. Cowboys fans are justifiably excited to see what the two defensive ends will do this season, but is there cause for concern on the horizon?
With the pending departure of Anthony Spencer through free agency and DeMarcus Ware entering the backside of his Hall of Fame career; the question "What does the future hold at DE" becomes one that must be addressed by the team. The first two guys who will get a shot at being the answer will be Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber, a pair of mid-round draft picks from 2012. Both will see opportunities this season as the coaching staff tries to evaluate what they have beyond the pair of Pro Bowlers.
Lets take a closer look at the Cowboys' two "Ends in Waiting".
The third round draft pick out of Boise St. was a first team All-Mountain West defensive end for the Broncos during his senior year. Over the two seasons of his collegiate career in Idaho, Tyrone registered a total of 76 tackles (33 solo), 27 tackles for a loss, and 18 career sacks. During his rookie season Crawford saw 303 snaps and recorded 20 tackles as a 3-4 DE. Moving back outside in the 4-3 scheme, where he has played the majority of his career, should help elevate his game in 2013. This should give Tyrone the chance to show the coaching staff that he is an option to help the team move on from Spencer and his 8 figure salary after this season. One thing is certain; Tyrone Crawford is going to have to step up his game this season if he intends to show Jason Garrett that he is the best option for the team as they enter into the 2014 season.
A fourth round selection out of Wake Forest, Kyle is the understudy to future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware. While being the back up to a player who is destined for Canton is an unenviable task; for Wilberforce, it will also serve to buy him additional time to develop. As a Demon Deacon, Wilber recorded 195 tackles, including 33.5 tackles for a loss. He also added 13.5 sacks. As a rookie, Kyle saw action in 6 games, primarily on special teams. He was limited, as were several members of the class of 2012, due to injuries. For the immediate future, Wilber needs to focus on proving that he can be a solid, not a spectacular, player and not a liability behind Ware. He needs to continue to focus on improvement to the point that he can fill the position, not the role, now held by DWare. He is likely not the long term answer for the Cowboys, but he can be a solid player in the rotation.
Two members of the draft class of 2012 stand on the cusp; Ready to take the next step into what Dallas has envisioned for them. Each has questions to answer for the team, and a different role to fulfill, yet each has an opportunity to make something of himself this season. What do you think BtB? Will either Crawford or Wilber take the next step?