Despite having only recorded twenty total tackles in his short two-year career, the Dallas Cowboys will be relying heavily on defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford. The versatile big-man out of Boise State appears to be the Cowboys answer to Baseball utility player for their recently remodeled defensive line. But can Crawford actually have the big year this team desperately needs from him in 2014?
Crawford was the Cowboys third round pick in 2012. In two-years at Boise State, the native of Canada recorded 27 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two blocked kicks. He was know for having an outstanding motor and being able to get pressure on the pocket. But the Cowboys understood that Crawford would also be a bit of a project to get ready for the NFL as he was very raw as he only started one-year for the Broncos.
Still, Crawford was able to create plenty of offseason buzz in his first two years in Dallas. But injuries and inexperience hindered any translation of that hype onto the actual playing field. In his rookie season, Crawford impressed in training camp although he struggled with a calf strain. He still played in all 16 games during his rookie campaign and recorded those 20 tackles in limited action, but still had no sacks.
In early 2013, ESPN listed Crawford as one of the Cowboys “under the radar” players who could make the biggest impact on the team. Here’s what they had to say:
“The third-round pick out of Boise State performed well in a limited role last season. That role should expand in his second season, when he’ll back up Anthony Spencer at the strongside defensive end and could also get playing time at both interior spots. Can Crawford prove that he’s ready to be a starter in 2014? That would allow the Cowboys to let Spencer leave in free agency instead of signing him to a lucrative long-term deal that could be regrettable a few years down the road. There has been a lot of good buzz around Valley Ranch this offseason about Crawford, a low-fat, 285-pound physical specimen.”
But that hope quickly faded as Crawford tragically tore his Achilles’ on the first day of training camp and had to be carted off the field. The injury would force him to miss the entire 2013 season. Unfortunately, that was only the start of bad luck for the Cowboys last season, as they had the worst defense in the NFL.
Crawford is expected to return in time for training camp in 2014. And as head coach Jason Garrett explained to the Dallas Morning News last week, the Cowboys will use him wherever they can:
“He has really good versatility. We are going to look at the landscape of our defensive line and see where he fits in…We really think he can play all four spots. We will use him in a couple of different spots certainly. We want to get him into a role, into a position where he is most comfortable and get his body right.’’
For now, some may even have Crawford “penciled-in” as a possible starter on this re-imagined defensive line. But that’s a lot to ask from a third-year player coming off an season-ending injury with a total of 303 snaps under his belt. Will the young but talented Crawford be up to the challenge? Only time will tell.