With the two projected starters at defensive end both looking at suspensions, many are concerned about the ability of the Dallas Cowboys pass rush for the opening of the season. The Cowboys staff themselves, however, do not seem to share in the worries of the fanbase. In this second part of a multi-part series, we look at another of the rumored solutions to the problem, switch hitter Tyrone Crawford.
Tyrone Crawford offers up a position flex that seems popular with the defensive selections under Rod Marinelli. He likes defensive ends who can move inside to play 3-tech. I think the structure of that sentence is important. Dallas has not usually drafted or recruited undersized tackles and moved them outward (the previous entry's David Irving being the notable exception) but has taken a number of defensive ends and moved them inward. Tyrone Crawford is at once the crown jewel and the misunderstood disappointment of this process.
When people discuss Crawford's transfer to the position, they usually harp on his relatively low sack totals. But this ignores both the reality of the defensive tackle position and the significant improvement Crawford actually showed. First of all, people seem to focus in on Jason Hatcher's 11 sacks as some kind of minimum standard for a good season. It's actually top-50 all-time for a defensive end. Even Hall-of-Fame 3-tech Warren Sapp, who essentially defined the position in this defense, only reached that number twice in his 13-year career. Sapp matched or failed to even meet Crawford's five sacks last year in five of those seasons.
But Crawford himself, despite playing almost the entire year with a shoulder injury robbing him of one arm, managed 5 sacks, 7 TFL, 9 quarterback hits, and 15 hurries in 2015, versus 3 sacks, 6 TFL, 14 hits, and 7 hurries in 2014. Add in that Dallas faced 50 fewer pass plays in 2015 and you have Crawford impacting a pass play 5.4% of the time in 2015 against 4.1% of the time in 2014. He's heading the right direction.
But what does Crawford bring as a defensive end? Remember, Crawford started 2014 as a defensive end, before moving inside to 3-tech in week 4. So what will you see from Crawford coming off the edge?
For starters, plenty of power. His bull rush is very strong and he never fails to push his man when bull rushing from the end spot. Some examples (Crawford is at LDE in all of these):
But you'll also see some very good lateral movement that allows him to be potent on stunts
As well as set up some very nice outside-in moves (a more developed swim would make these even more impressive)
For those concerned about his athleticism, he has impressive bend and speed for a guy his size (I believe he was playing about 285 in 2014). Here he gets the corner and disrupts a pass
and here he is in coverage on Jared Cook down the seam
and Bishop Sankey in the flat.
Now it's not to say that he's *great* in these coverages, but he is sufficient to allow a CB or LB a chance at getting home in a blitz. That's a bit of help that not every player brings to the fold.
Crawford can be a very effective defensive end, with power and athleticism to spare. He's probably the biggest reason why the team is not terribly concerned about going and adding a veteran defensive end to help the pass rush, and they have said as much, as his name is consistently the one that comes up when they are asked why they haven't done so.
Of course, they intend for him to be their disruptive 3-tech, so they, and we, should be hoping that someone else steps up to man the DE spots for the first few games, but Crawford makes a good safety net if no one else does.