If something works once, try it again. Such has been a strategy of the Cowboys for quite some time and it’s hard to argue against the logic.
Once upon a time, Dallas drafted a well-rounded defensive end from Boise State to join the D-line mix. It wasn’t long before they realized this player projected better inside than outside and would be moved to a new role where his traits would stand out most.
Chauncey Golston and Viliami Fehoko are two former defensive ends who figure to play primarily defensive tackle for the Cowboys.
The year was 2012 and the player was Tyrone Crawford. Crawford came to the NFL with a solid build and good traits. With only one-year of college experience he was untapped potential who had a bit of risk-reward to him.
Crawford was quick off the snap but didn’t have elite EDGE explosiveness or bend. He projected more as a base DE and could have very easily carved out a career playing just base if the Cowboys wanted to take the traditional route.
Alas, Dallas thumbed their nose at the traditional and saw a player big enough and well-rounded enough to play inside. And what was once seen as average get-off at EDGE, would be considered elite explosiveness inside at 3-tech.
So the course was set and Crawford was signed long-term to be the Cowboys next starting 3-tech DT.
As things unfolded (injuries across the line, mostly), Crawford could never make the shift inside fulltime and would often be asked to play DE out of need. But the blueprint was there and if the Cowboys only could have stuck to it, who knows how Crawford’s career could have gone?
In 2023, Dallas seems to be trying this “Crawford Blueprint” once again. Last season they moved 2021 draft pick Chauncey Golston from DE to DT and their rookie draft pick, Viliami Fehoko appears to be following the same course.
Like Crawford, both players were DEs in college and like Crawford, both players project better inside in the pros.
Their average ability to rush the passer outside looks like it would be above average playing inside. And their builds, length, and competitive nature prevent them from being running game liabilities as well.
Like Crawford, both players can still bounce outside if the Cowboys need them to. Given the depth at DE, that’s unlikely this season, but the versatility is there, regardless.
NOTE: The Cowboys also play a lot of 3-3-5 fronts where the lines get blurred between inside and outside. Players can line up as ends in a three-man front but for all intents and purposes serve a DT role. Technique and gap responsibilities are more telling than who the last down lineman may be on a given play.
While a segment of the fan base will always be critical of Crawford’s pay in relation to his production (much like DeMarcus Lawrence gets today), his role was valuable and he was never truly given the opportunity to focus and play what he was really signed to play.
Given the depth of the line and the needs at DT, the Cowboys should face the same issues with Fehoko and Golston.
The Cowboys are turning to a familiar blueprint in their development and deployment of Fehoko and Golston. Let’s see if it pays off.
- Published on 06/20/2023 at 11:01 AM
- Last updated at 06/20/2023 at 11:01 AM