When the Cowboys drafted Boise State defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford with their 81st overall pick, I initially liked the decision to address the defensive line. Crawford wasn't a player I spent a lot of time evaluating, and I actually spent more time on the other Boise defensive end, Billy Winn. After reading some scouting reports and seeing the "raw" word, my initial reaction was that Crawford was a project.
Brandon Worley reassured us that Crawford was far from a project in his post draft analysis of the Canadian native. Brandon makes a strong sell, but I still see some growing pains for our new defensive end. Now that doesn't mean he can't become an instant help for the Cowboys defensive line. Crawford still has a lot of learning to do as a football player, but his combination of size, athletic ability and hunger combine for a player who can contribute sooner than later.
The Cowboys desperately needed some help beefing up the defensive line, especially in the pass rushing department. A few of the incumbent defensive ends are run-stuffers, and we need to start moving away from that type of player. Crawford isn't a run stopper, at least that isn't his strength. That is one of the reasons why I see him becoming a solid contributor right away.
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Crawford spells trouble for the controversial Marcus Spears and the aging Kenyon Coleman. Both defensive ends are solid players who will never rack up the sacks or generate a lot of pressure. Spears is 29 years old and Coleman has just turned 33 years old. When they both entered the NFL, they could get away with their lack of pass rushing skills. Now that the NFL is becoming more of a passing league, disruptive defensive lineman have become a must.
The Cowboys will most likely release one of them in training camp. My money would be on Coleman since he is older and has less talent compared to Spears.
The addition of a young defensive end with pass rushing skills gives the Cowboys four reliable options on the defensive line. Crawford, Jay Ratliff, Sean Lissemore and Jason Hatcher will combine for a solid depth chart. All four are scheme versatile and can play in a variety of ways. One aspect that I think is overlooked by the addition of Crawford is moving him all over the line. Ratliff is listed at 6'4, and 287 pounds (but is really closer to 300). Crawford is listed as 6'4, and 282 pounds. Is it crazy to think we could see Crawford spelling Ratliff on the interior of the line? I don't think so because both have the skill to penetrate as pass rushers.
Weight seems to be an issue the Cowboys and Crawford don't see eye to eye on. On this mothership video, Crawford thinks he can play at 285 pounds. Jason Garrett suggests his frame could add more while defensive line coach Brian Baker appears to be taking the stance that he needs to gain some weight.
"When we analyzed his body at the combine, we feel like he can grow even more, even put on 10 more pounds to get into the high 290s," Garrett said. "He is a thinly built guy who has good length, so we feel he can grow into his body."
"I think you can be too little, but I don’t think 285 is too little," Baker said. "I’m not a bigger-is-better guy. I’m a better-is-better guy. He’s never going to be as big as the offensive line, so he has to always be more explosive and quicker than they are."
For five-technique defensive lineman anywhere from 285-300 is where you want to be. Crawford has the frame to add more weight, but I wouldn't say that him weighing in at 285 will prevent him from getting onto the field in 2012. He has actually gained ten pounds since the combine where he weighed in at 275 pounds. Gaining weight and adding muscle to his frame will not be a problem for him. As long as he does it the right way, Crawford will be fine.
What worries me the most is his lack of football experience. Coming out of high school no college programs offered him a scholarship. He decided to take his talents to Bakersfield College in California. He spent two years there and Rivals.com listed him as one of the best JUCO prospects in the nation. Crawford transferred to Boise State in 2010, playing in 10 games and accumulating 32 tackles, 7 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. In 2011 he started 12 games at defensive end and finished with 44 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
13.5 sacks and 27 tackles for loss are some pretty impressive statistics for a defensive end. It is even more impressive considering he came from a junior college and played right away for a nationally recognized football program.
He will have a great mentor this training camp in former Cowboy players Leon Lett and Charles Haley. Haley is already giving the young man some tips.
After Crawford was taken to the ground on a running play during his first practice with the Cowboys, Haley pulled him aside and gave him some intense instruction by grabbing Crawford's jersey. "He’s an aggressive coach," Crawford said of Haley. "And that’s exactly what I need. He wants us to look him dead in the eye when we’re talking to him. He’s showing us different moves, teaching us little things."
The Cowboys may have found themselves a steal according to CBS Sports draft guru Rob Rang.
"I know of scouts who believe he's a third- to fourth-round prospect," Rob Rang, senior NFL draft analyst for CBSSports.com, said before the draft.
"But considering the value teams place on pass rushers and Crawford's versatility, I believe he could surprise as a second-round pick. We rank him as the ninth overall defensive end in the 2012 draft, and a second- to third-round pick."
If you want an NFL comparison from me, I would say Jason Hatcher, well a better Hatcher. Crawford is actually a prospect that I think is much farther along in his career than Hatcher was coming out of Grambling State. Ironically, both were third-round draft picks. I see Crawford becoming a producer on the field quicker than it took Hatcher. Anywhere from 4-6 sacks would be an excellent number in his rookie season.
This defensive line needed an upgrade, and it got it in the form of Crawford. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that he could start for us in 2012. At the very least, Crawford will form a nice rotation with Hatcher and Lissemore at defensive end. The defensive line still needs more talent, but this was a step in the right direction.