After spending a good deal of time the last two weeks watching the Dallas Cowboys line play. on both sides of the ball, here are a number of observations that, on their own, are not worthy of a column. After a while, they sort of pile up, though, so here they are, shared with the world.
Tyrone Crawford’s move is not merely about the lack of DE depth. He performed well there. In fact when they drafted him, I thought they might be thinking of him as an elephant-type OLB, like how they used Greg Ellis.
But after a disappointing first game, Crawford was much worse in the Washington game, inside. There were rumors he was not right and I wonder if he is lacking some functional strength from some sort of lingering issue. His comments on being moved outside were about not getting beaten up and feeling good... and that made me go "hmmmm".
Crawford’s move, pt. II
Nonetheless it seems like a good thing, as the defense stiffened considerably with that move. He would makes a good strong-side DE and he responded with pressure and a sack. But the move is largely possible because of the play of the other DTs. Terrell McClain has been everyone’s darling. Cedric Thornton has been a bit maligned but if you actually watch him he’s been quite good. The player that really makes this possible, however, has been Maliek Collins. Having missed most of training camp, Collins was expected to ease his way in. Instead he’s proving a strong part of a strong rotational group and is allowing Dallas to use some of their more talented interior players to bolster the outside edge to good effect. He’s looking like a terrific pick, although his third-round pick was only seven spots behind Randy Gregory’s second round selection... so maybe our expectations should be more Kawann Short level than Khyri Thornton.
Benson Mayowa has been a disappointment. The expectation wasn't that he would be all world, but he has been significantly absent on the outside in both edge containment and pass pressure. His performance is the one that has affected Dallas the most, defensively.
A trip to Irving
David Irving has looked decent and seems to be continuing where he left off as a solid rotational piece. he should get more snaps. He’s gotten some decent pressure and has already batted a pass with his big wing span. He’s not a starting quality DE yet, but his trajectory is still headed the right direction.
The other Crawford
Jack Crawford is a great player to have. He’s not as lean or shifty as you’d like at DE. He’s not as big and powerful as you’d like at DT. But he puts it all out on every play and has enough juice to make you have to stop him, even if he doesn’t demand your best player. His flexibility and effort are great for this team.
The other side of the ball
The offensive line is having a rough go of it. While many love to harp on Doug Free, it should be kept in mind that he has had to go up against two of the best players on their respective teams: Jason Pierre-Paul and Ryan Kerrigan. They can make anyone look off their game.
Far more concerning is the interior of the line. Everyone makes mistakes, but it was distressing to see Zack Martin get completely destroyed by off-the-street Cullen Jenkins. It was just one play, but you don’t expect Martin to get dominated like that, ever. Travis Frederick and La’el Collins have had their issues as well, and more than a few. Now, I’ll grant you that Dallas asks their linemen to make some difficult reach blocks and do a lot on the run, but they normally execute at a very high level and they just aren’t right now.
Dallas also asks tough things of their blocking TEs, like taking on big powerful edge players without help. Once upon a time this worked, but Jason Witten may not be up to that anymore, as he struggled with both Olivier Vernon and Ryan Kerrigan. Geoff Swaim has not been better. Oddly, the blocks I’ve seen Gavin Escobar make were as good as anything Witten has done this year. Dallas used Escobar to clear a path for Swaim on the 4th and 1 conversion. I can’t help but wonder if Escobar would have scored, had the roles been reversed.The coaches should give him more chances. I think Cowboys fans criminally underrate the player.