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Cowboys New Secret Weapon: Defensive Tackle Tyrone Crawford

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The Cowboys were looking for anybody along the defensive line to step up this season, and one guy seems to be doing it.

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Think back to the 2014 preseason. The Dallas Cowboys defense was supposed to be one of the worst in 2014, maybe in history. The defensive line had been decimated with the loss of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, along with the health issues of Henry Melton, Anthony Spencer and Terrell McClain. Plus, DeMarcus Lawrence had broken his foot. They needed somebody to step in and do something. That person was supposed to be Tyrone Crawford. At first, at defensive end, Crawford was okay but wasn't breaking out as a playmaker. That is changing now that the Cowboys found the right position for him. After his recent move to defensive tackle playing the 3-technique, Crawford has started to bloom. Crawford told the Dallas Morning News:

"I've just been learning - learning more on how to take on blocks. The first week, I was just running head first into different blocks, different guys," he said. "I've learned - quickly, I would say - how to take on blocks better, but still a lot of learning to do. But I feel better."

"I don't know if I feel more comfortable, but I do feel like I've done a better job at the tackle position than the end. What I can improve on, there's definitely still a lot of reads and different things I need to continue to learn. But I definitely feel like I've been a better tackle than end."

Crawford will still likely rotate around the line some, but the combination of Crawford and Melton at the 3-tech just might be a winner for Dallas. Against the Texans, Crawford showed off his athleticism and versatility on the Cowboys first three defensive plays of the game.

First play of the game:

The Texans try to start the game with one of their basic, staple plays. It's a run with a zone-blocking scheme for Arian Foster.

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Crawford is lined up as the 3-technique (red arrow), the Cowboys line is shifted over with Nick Hayden plying a 0-tech instead of the 1-tech and George Selvie is lined up over the tight end.

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At the snap, Crawford uses his quickness to knife through the zone-blocking scheme (red arrow). The right tackle for the Texans (yellow circle) is too slow to get the block and Crawford's penetration forces Foster to alter his intended path (green arrow).

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Because of Crawford's (red arrow) and Selvie's (yellow arrow) penetration into the backfield, Foster tries to swing wide and then cut upfield (green arrow).

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In an instinctive and athletic move, Crawford spins off the block and reverses direction (red arrow) and meets Foster (green arrow) in the backfield, forcing him into the arms of other defenders for no gain.

Second play of the game:

The Texans are now in a passing situation on second down.

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Here is Crawford playing defensive tackle (red arrow), but the Cowboys have spread out their line for rushing the passer, using two 3-tech tackles.

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The Texans leave Crawford one-on-one with the right guard, so Crawford just bull-rushes towards the QB (red arrow).

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Using his strength, Crawford pushed his man back into the QB (red arrow), forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick to release the ball early. He also forces Fitzpatrick to worry about his arm blocking the pass, further complicating the play. The Texans only gain five yards on the pass play.

Third play of the game:

On third down, the Texans are going to the air.

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The Cowboys use two 3-techs again, this time with Crawford (red arrow) and Melton (yellow arrow).

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From a different angle, we can see Crawford (red arrow) and Melton (yellow arrow), but the Cowboys have also rolled up two linebackers (green arrow) showing an A-gap blitz. But if you think Rod Marinelli is just running vanilla defenses with some normal blitzes, take note.

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Dallas only sends one A-gap blitzer and they don't send any pass rush from the Texans' left side. Both Crawford (red arrow) and Jeremy Mincey (yellow arrow) stand up at the snap and head into coverage. All of the pass rush is coming from the Texans' right (green circle).

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Here is a better shot of Crawford (red arrow) dropping into coverage on the tight end (green arrow) with Mincey (yellow arrow) also dropping back into coverage.

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Crawford shows off his speed and mobility by running with the tight end down the seam (red arrow). He's got excellent coverage on his man. Mincey (yellow arrow) settles into a zone while the Cowboys pass rush (green circle) starts to get pressure on Fitzpatrick.

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10 yards downfield Crawford still has his man (red circle) while the Cowboys pass rush is getting to Fitzpatrick (yellow circle). The Texans end up with an incompletion and punt.

On three consecutive plays we have Tyrone Crawford showing off his speed and quickness by blowing up a run, then using his strength to get pressure with a bull rush, and finally flashing his speed and agility by dropping into coverage. That's some pretty impressive versatility from a 3-tech.

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