I think you may be making too big of a deal about Tyrone Crawford. Spencer is expected to be fine when the season starts and is usually really reliable.
Now that I think about it, I may be making too LITTLE of the Crawford injury! This defense is undergoing major changes this season. Moving from their 3-4 to Kiffin’s 4-3 is no small feat. Especially when you look at how undersized the defensive line is.
The main men in the middle are Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher. They will be facing larger players on a regular basis. They will face double-teams often and they will inevitably wear down during a game as result.
In order to succeed the Cowboys need a steady rotation to keep players fresh. Crawford factored into a rotation at both DT (typically in nickel situations) and DE to replace Spencer.
Yes, Spencer should be fine once the season begins and I feel this late surgery was just a good excuse to skip training camp for him. BUT – this is also a new position for him. He will be facing more double teams than he’s accustomed to. In many of Kiffins formations the SDE is responsible for 2 gaps and will need to fight through a much larger RT in order to fulfill his assignment. He will also need regular breaks in order to stay fresh. Crawford was that relief.
Factor in the fact that Spencer will be playing for a different team in 2014 and you can see why getting a good look at his replacement in Tyrone Crawford in 2013, would have been a good thing.
Maybe this is a good idea for an article at a later date, but I project Spencer, Ratliff, and Hatcher to all play for someone else in 2014. That means the Cowboys have to do a ton of work rebuilding their D-Line. Plugging Crawford into Spencer’s spot in 2014 was one of the only sure things we could do. Can we still do that? Probably, but not with the same amount of confidence than if he rotated all 2013.
Follow this with me: With Crawford gone Kyle Wilber will need to hold a bigger role at DE than just the pass rushing “LEO”. As a result he will no doubt be less effective (“dynamic”) on those LEO pass rush plays. Sean Lissemore and Ben Bass are the primary (and secondary for that matter) subs at DT.
The Cowboys are dangerously thin they cannot handle added injuries. Thin teams don’t have the resources to rotate fresh personnel as easily as deep teams. When a team has small defensive linemen that are forced to play extra minutes because proper relief isn’t available, they wear down quickly. When linemen wear down they are unable to hold off blockers allowing O-Linemen to reach the next level. Then the linebackers end up taking a beating. With how susceptible Bruce Carter and Sean Lee are to injury do you really want them taking on 300lb linemen on a regular basis?
Even without the injury to Crawford this D-line was in trouble. Now, it’s getting very dangerous. Without added moves by the Dallas Cowboys this team may not be able to stop the run in 2013.
Do you have questions or comments regarding Dallas area sports? Email Reid at [email protected]. You may be included in the next weekly mailbag. Follow Reid on twitter @ReidDHanson