The Dallas Cowboys are seriously considering a temporary position change for their most proven pass-rusher, Tyrone Crawford. This is why that may not be a good idea…
The Dallas Cowboys will begin the 2016 season severely undermanned at the defense end position. Both starting bookends, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, will miss the first four games while serving suspensions for violating the NFL Substance Abuse Policy.
Since Greg Hardy and Jeremy Mincey, two players who logged significant playing time in 2015, are no longer with the team, the Dallas Cowboys are contemplating a temporary position change for fifth year player, Tyrone Crawford.
At face value, moving Tyrone Crawford makes perfect sense. Crawford, the Cowboys’ most proven pass-rusher, has experience as a defensive end. He was a DE at Boise State and he began his career with the Dallas Cowboys as a DE.
Tyrone Crawford needs to play where the Dallas Cowboys believe he can be the most productive
But since the installment of the Rod Marinelli 4-3 defense, Crawford has been the Cowboys’ all-important under tackle. The under tackle, or 3-technique defensive tackle, is a pass-rusher in every way. With primarily 1-gap principles, the under tackle plays an attacking brand of football.
He’s the rushman of the rushmen.
Together with the right defensive end, the under tackle is the primary source of pressure on the Dallas Cowboys defense.
Slowed by injury much of last season, Crawford didn’t have the impact many expected him to have. He collected five sacks, 35 tackles, and ranked #98 on Pro Football Focus’ DT rankings. While PFF isn’t the be-all end-all in performance rating, it certainly is a good reporting of snap to snap execution.
So why wouldn’t the Dallas Cowboys move Crawford to end for the first few games of the season? After all, it’s not like he was doing a great job at under tackle anyway…
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The reason they shouldn’t is simple — they still think Crawford can be a difference maker at under tackle. Injuries noticeably slowed Crawford in 2015. Crawford, teammates, and coaches all believe that if healthy, Crawford can make a significant impact as an interior pass-rusher.
If Crawford can be the 10-sack under tackle they are paying him to be, why would they want move him to defensive end?
Crawford’s game is much better suited in the middle. He’s quick through the gap and uses active hands to best his opponents. On the edge, Crawford simply isn’t as special of a player. He’s not overly strong or fast as a DE. There, he’s just a guy.
So why would you rob Peter to pay Paul? Why would you subtract the 10-sacks you expect him to get at DT and replace it with four sacks at DE? Clearly we’re just talking about a four-game band aid here, but the point remains true. Tyrone Crawford needs to play where the Dallas Cowboys believe he can be the most productive. And that position is DT.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, but the Cowboys aren’t necessarily desperate. They have other options on staff that are versatile enough to play end. David Irving is a player with position versatility. His size and athleticism are off the charts. At 6’7” 273lbs, He might even be a better defensive end than a tackle.
Jack Crawford is another player who seems to be a better option at end for the Dallas Cowboys. In previous seasons, Jack has split his time between DT and DE. While he’s a skilled enough pass-rusher to adequately play at either spot, his strength and leverage get exposed when playing the run in the middle.
Both Irving and Jack Crawford are virtual locks to make the 2016 roster. Together with rookie draft pick Charles Tapper and free agent signing, Benson Mayowa (who is expected to start at right defensive end), the defensive end position is pretty well covered, considering the circumstances.
Keeping Crawford inside the entirety of the season is the odds-on best way for him to make an impact as a pass-rusher. And since Crawford is still developing as a player, a position switch may not be the best way for him to realize his potential and live up to his hefty 5 year/$45M contract he signed last season.