Since signing a five-year, $45 million dollar extension back in 2015, Tyrone Crawford has not lived up to expectations of most Cowboys fans. The Boise State product has never recorded more than 5.5 sacks in a season, never been selected to a Pro Bowl, and by most’s standards, has under-performed for the contract he received.
This believed lack of production has caused many to ponder the question: why did Dallas ever sign Crawford to an expensive long-term deal? This questions came up, possibly more than ever, last season, when Crawford missed all but four games with a season-ending hip injury.
There was the suggestion that this would be the last we would see of the defensive lineman in a Cowboys uniform, but it seems the Cowboys believed otherwise. Crawford is still a Cowboy as we are in the beginning of May, and logically if Dallas wanted to move on they would have already done that by now.
At age 30, there is really no way Crawford will be able to live up to the contract he once received, but if you dive a little deeper you can see that he still can be an extremely productive player in this league. Let’s take a look at the last full season he played in 2018.
During the 2018-2019 season, in 12 of the 17 games that Crawford appeared in, he received a rush defense grade of 62 or above according to Pro Football Focus.
Shot 1 - The #Saints were one of the top rushing teams entering the game and the #Cowboys held them Ingram / Kamara to 63 yards on the ground combined. That started with guys holding up their end of the bargain at the point of attack. Tyrone Crawford impressive at both DT & DE pic.twitter.com/0FngKBJjf1— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 7, 2018
Crawford got more love from PFF in his overall grades. He finished the season with an overall defensive grade of 71, which is very solid, and his overall pass rush grade of 69.1 was not far behind. His rush defense grade was slightly below at 64.6, but this was mainly due to two very poor games against Detroit and Carolina. The defensive lineman also recorded at least one QB hurry in all but two games of the 2018 season.
TYRONE CRAWFORD!!! pic.twitter.com/HgpFJRNf9i— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) December 9, 2018
Crawford is not a sexy player. He’s not a guy who is going to record double-digit sacks and fly off the edge to get to the quarterback. He’s a grinder, but he can help the Dallas defense in a few big ways when he returns this season. Last year, the Cowboys’ defense struggled stopping opponents in the running game. In eight of their final ten games, Dallas allowed the opposition to rush for 100 yards or more. Crawford’s return will help improve the team’s performance stopping the run.
Another way he can help improve the Dallas defense is the versatility he brings. Throughout his seven-year NFL career, Crawford has played all different kind of roles on the defensive line. He has the ability to line up as an end in the Cowboys’ 4-3, or he can easily slide inside to DT when the Cowboys put their big pass rushers on the field. Below is an example of how sliding Crawford inside could help the Dallas pass rushers, hopefully Randy Gregory or Aldon Smith, on the edge.
This game with Tyrone Crawford and Randy Gregory inverts what a defense expects Gregory to do if they watched what little tape is on him in NFL (and leaning on college reports) to give Crawford and easy edge. #CowboysNation pic.twitter.com/DEY4BR3mkC— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) December 2, 2018
Crawford’s return to the Dallas defense will not be flashy, but it will help their overall production. There’s reason to believe the defensive lineman still has something left in the tank, and his versatility, leadership, and production will only help the Cowboys on the defensive side of the ball.