The Cowboys received great news a few days ago when Randy Gregory was reinstated and allowed to return to the team. After an 18-month banishment, he took care of all the necessary requirements to become a football player again. Randy Gregory could also be just the right guy for that right defensive end spot that is currently being played by Tyrone Crawford.
We know that Gregory hasn’t played in a long time, which will mean that as of now, he’s only considered part of their rotation. However, it’s undeniable what type of talent Gregory is and if he’s anything close to the guy the Cowboys drafted, he could make an impact rather quickly with his explosiveness. Gregory is the prototypical speed rusher that Rod Marinelli wants on the right side. With the emergence of DeMarcus Lawrence at left end, this team really needs to find another edge presence that can allow the pass rush to flourish.
Tyrone Crawford has become this team’s chess piece on the defensive line. Though he’s not the ideal fit for the right end spot, his ability to create a threat from that side allowed Lawrence to rack up 14.5 sacks and make his first Pro Bowl. This offseason, Crawford has tried to slim down from the 290 pounds he was playing at last season to fit more into the roll of an edge rusher. Just a few seasons ago, the Cowboys were looking all over for edge rushers. Suddenly, they have edge rushers in excess.
One position they don’t have in excess at the moment is at defensive tackle. The Cowboys are facing uncertainty at both tackle spots. David Irving, who was second on the team with seven sacks last season, will miss the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Maliek Collins, the other incumbent, is currently dealing with a broken foot that should put him on PUP to start training camp. Though Collins is expected to recover in time for the season, the Cowboys will need to find a temporary solution at the other tackle spot. Now, they do expect to give guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward a chance to earn a spot in the interim. Still, if the Cowboys want to be as close to full strength by week one, shouldn’t they at least consider letting Crawford play inside?
It was only a few seasons ago that the Cowboys extended Tyrone Crawford to be their starting three-tech. Once Irving and Collins started making impacts from the tackle position, Crawford was moved back outside. He was partly moved there due to necessity but also because the Cowboys were trying to put their best four out there. If they still want to get their best four linemen on the field, you would have to think Crawford is one of them.
Though there have been many gripes about his contract, Crawford has been one of the more consistent players on defense. No matter where he’s been asked to play, he’s taken on whatever role has been asked of him. Crawford is never going to be a double-digit sack artist but he’s been one of their best run defenders. He’s also a very disruptive player due to his power at the point of attack. One of his best traits as a defensive tackle is his power to push blockers back into the quarterback’s lap. He doesn’t have the length that David Irving does but Crawford is probably the most qualified man to play at the three in Irving’s absence.
Dallas has plenty of guys to play end with DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Taco Charlton, Kony Ealy, and the rookie Dorance Armstrong. It may best serve the Cowboys to use the versatility that Tyrone Crawford brings and move him back inside because he’s their best option. The coaches know what they can expect from Crawford and you can’t say that for Datone Jones and Jihad Ward at this point. Sure, the Cowboys preach competition and want to see what these guys have but at the end of the day, the best four should be out there week one.
The first month of the season, this defensive line will be tested with road trips to the Panthers and Seahawks. At home won’t be much better with the Giants and Lions rolling through. The Cowboys will create a competitive atmosphere during training camp but it comes down to who the coaches trust putting out there when it matters. For that reason, Tyrone Crawford should be the three-tech defensive tackle when week one begins.