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Watch For Crawford To Break Out On Cowboys Defensive Line - No, The OTHER Crawford

There is great hope in Dallas that the pass rush will be significantly improved in 2015. And one reason that may be is being largely overlooked.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There are two main questions that the Dallas Cowboys have to answer if they are to successfully defend their NFC East crown (and hopefully go further this season). The first, which has been the main topic of discussion here the past few days, is whether they can sufficiently replace the production of DeMarco Murray, whether with the resources already at hand or by acquiring a new running back. But the second, which has seen the most resources in free agency and the draft thrown at it, is can the team get a more robust pass rush?

While the running back position has so far seen only the addition of free agent Darren McFadden and UDFA Synjyn Days, Dallas went all in on pass rushers. They signed controversial defensive end Greg Hardy as a free agent, and then double-dipped on DE in the draft with Randy Gregory in the second (although he is almost certainly a first round level talent) and Ryan Russell in the fifth. They are returning Jeremy Mincey, the sack leader in 2014, second year player DeMarcus Lawrence, who blossomed in the postseason, and also have versatile Tyrone Crawford, who contributed three sacks despite playing mostly as a 3 tech DT. There are a lot of reasons to think the team can improve on its anemic 28 total sacks and the overall pressure on the passer with the current assets at hand.

But this may overlook another player who looked poised to make a significant contribution last year before injury sidelined him. That is the other Crawford, Jack Crawford. He only played in six games in 2014, but in his last three games he got to the quarterback twice. In those six games, he tied for the fourth most individual sacks on the team with Orlando Scandrick blitzing from his slot corner position. Had Crawford been healthy for a full 16 games, he projects to have gotten five sacks, which would have been tied for the second most on the team.

While he is probably not going to pass Lawrence or Mincey on the depth chart, he is set to play a key role while Hardy is suspended and Gregory is climbing that rookie learning curve. Second year player and fan favorite Ben Gardner will probably be his main competition for the third DE spot on the roster to open the season. Given the preference the Cowboys have for ends who can also move inside on selected downs, they will most likely carry five or six DEs on the 53 man roster, and you have to like Jack's chances to be one of those players, especially until Hardy's suspension ends.

He is also one of the Dallas "imports", the group of foreign born players now on the roster. He joins Tyrone Crawford, Mark Nzeocha, Efe Obada, and long snapping sensei L.P Ladouceur. Although this high number is a side effect of the team's efforts to find players who can contribute from any source, it also gives the team a group of players that can appeal to fans outside the US, something that the NFL is trying to do as a league. However accidental it is, it once again puts the Cowboys ahead of most of the rest of the league.

That is a purely secondary benefit, of course. Primarily, Jack Crawford is a resource for Rod Marinelli, and one whose value has been somewhat overlooked with the way the team has been going after new talent. He was mired on the Oakland Raiders his first two seasons and only had ten tackles and no sacks in the 19 games he played there. Coming to Dallas has already seen his production increase. Perhaps that is a good omen for his former and current teammate Darren McFadden. More importantly, he will hopefully be healthy and able to keep up his contributions this season. If he can get five or six sacks as part of the rushman rotation, he will certainly have paid off for the Cowboys.

Keep your eye on the other Crawford. Big things may be coming.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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