Ed. Note: Plenty of GIFs to follow, have patience if the load is a little slow.
One of the most consistent questions on my twitter feed Sunday afternoon was "where is 98?" People wanted to see more of Tyrone Crawford. He’s been the one person that people have pointed to and said, "there is the hope for this defensive line," yet he didn’t seem to deliver much with just two tackles and no sacks.
Was their impression correct? Pro Football Focus gave him a particularly bad grade, listing him as their worst interior defender. Of course, they also completely failed to notice a tackle he made, so perhaps they weren’t looking very closely. I did my own quick PFF-style grade, simply rating each play as plus, even, or minus. I came out with a positive two... certainly not the disastrous game that PFF saw, but not exactly what you want from the focal point of your defensive line, either. I think Jason Garrett’s assessment was accurate: he did some good things. He needed to do more.
So what did these plays look like?
First we’ll look at an "even" play. These were typical of the day and usually there simply wasn’t much Crawford could do to affect the play one way or another. Here, Crawford lines up as NT on a 3 man front.
He draws a double-team, unsurprisingly.
And pushes them a little ways — about five yards deep — but isn’t really successful against them.
The vast majority of plays on the day were like this. Nothing special, nothing terrible. It should be noted that Eli Manning had almost entirely quick throws. The ball was routinely out in two seconds or less (several by the time I counted "one thousand one") and so there wasn’t a lot the pass rush was going to do in that situation anyhow.
But what did it look like when Crawford was off? Here he is a 3-tech on a standard four-man front.
Crawford will often use a stutter with some effect but here he just looks goofy. He moves inside and shakes his hands. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but in motion he looks exactly like Jack Black’s Panda trying to get around Master Shifu and give up Kung Fu. "I can’t even beat you to the stairs."
Justin Pugh completely anticipates Crawford’s move outside and handles him one on one with ease. Not the kind of play you want from your star 3-tech. I had six such plays on the game.
Now a positive play. I had eight of these. Once again, Crawford is a 3-tech in a standard four-man front.
He fires off and draws a double-team, knifing through them. LDE Jack Crawford is blocked by the H-back. On the other side, Benson Mayowa (blue arrow) is trying unsuccessfully to reverse his field on LT Ereck Flowers. Meanwhile RB Rashad Jennings is coming across the formation to pick up Crawford as he penetrates. Finally, Anthony Hitchens can be seen with a very indecisive, looping blitz. This was not a delay, but a guy who didn't know where he wanted to go.
The RB picks up Crawford, while no one else has gotten anywhere. Mayowa is shut down. Hitchens is late. Jack Crawford finally enters the picture right side because the H-back has released out into the pattern. This was a case where Dallas's lack of DE talent showed dramatically.
There were a couple of interesting plays. On the Mayowa sack, Crawford lined up as a 3-tech, but with a three-man front. There was no 1-tech.
He gets good penetration with a swim move, and will once again draw the RB, Shane Vereen this time, in for extra protection. When your 3-tech is making the blitz pick-up guy commit, that is a good thing. At the left, you can see Mayowa using the one arm longer technique that came into our vocabulary from watching Randy Gregory.
Vereen gets a pretty good wham on Crawford, but Mayowa is left with an unimpeded path to the QB.
Manning steps up, but by then, Jack Crawford is bringing pressure off the other edge (check) and things are getting awfully crowded for old Eli. He has to pull the ball down and Mayowa finishes.
Some were complaining about Crawford's run defense, but I saw a few plays like this one. As usual, Crawford is at the 3-tech.
He penetrates and prevents Justin Pugh from "reaching" him, getting his inside shoulder outside the play in the backfield.
His penetration turns the play inside where Sean Lee is waiting, but the play will actually be made by Cedric Thornton (blue arrow) who gets off a double-team to make the tackle for loss.
So, if Crawford was effective against the run, what happened on the final drive? Well, the Giants pulled a really ballsy move, and it worked for them. The key play of the drive, to me, is here. Dallas had stopped the Giants for a modest three-yard gain, leaving second and seven. Dallas took its second time out. Crawford is again at 3-tech. The play is called right into his face (red arrow).
As Crawford fires off, both the guard and tackle leave Crawford completely unblocked! Here you can see the LT actually trying to Ole' Crawford.
Meeting no resistance at all throws Crawford completely off balance. The Giants are pulling the right guard to pick up Crawford. He lunges towards the play, but the left guard and left tackle are now free to move on the linebackers and Crawford is falling. Meanwhile, the TE simply wraps his arms around Benson Mayowa's head. No call, of course.
So both Lee and Hitchens are met by unhindered offensive linemen, which is bad for them. Crawford makes a desperate grab (blue circle) but the pulling guard falls on him and his grab at Jennings' leg is ineffective. Meanwhile Mayowa can't get over because the TE still has him by the helmet. Jennings breaks through for nine yards and a first down, which takes several extra ticks off the clock. Had Crawford held on to the leg, had Mayowa been free to make the tackle, or had holding been called, the Giants would have lost yardage and been faced with a 3rd and long... or 2nd and 17 with a stopped clock as the penalty would save Dallas a time out. This is your hidden hinge point of the game, IMO. The Giants took a huge gamble on this play and everything went exactly right for them.
While I don't think he was the major non-factor that some believe, Tyrone Crawford will need to be better for Dallas. Particularly early on in the season, as there does not seem to be a lot of help on the way from the defensive ends for several games. That said, the secondary was actually pretty solid, except for the one big play to Odell Beckham Jr., and the defense overall was fairly effective. Hopefully they can continue to hold the fort until reinforcements arrive.
Two notes: I am going to look at a couple of key plays in detail tomorrow. And, secondly, I will be previewing an opposing player on Saturdays every week. If you have any requests for a Washington player to breakdown, please leave them in the comments (just be aware that I'm only going to do one).