Flashback to April 26, 2013. The Dallas Cowboys are on the clock at pick number 18, and according to the NFL Draft experts on ESPN, the perfect scenario has happened for the team. Sharrif Floyd, a 6’3, 297 pound defensive tackle has fallen into the Cowboys’ lap in the first round. Mel Kiper Jr had previously ranked Floyd has the fifth overall player in the draft and one of the best defensive players in the entire draft. Everything fell right for the Cowboys according to the experts and this was a slam-dunk pick for the team, right?
You probably remember what happened next. The team mysteriously traded with the San Francisco 49ers to slide all the way down to pick number 31 and pass on Sharrif Floyd. Floyd later is selected by the Minnesota Vikings at number 23 overall and Dallas drafts Wisconsin Center Travis Frederick, which puzzles many from the draft community. So what provoked Dallas to pass on a supposedly elite player at an apparent position of need? The answer seems to lie in Monte Kiffin’s scheme.
After the draft, Monte Kiffin released a statement that to me, revealed the true reason why the Dallas Cowboys passed on the talented Floyd at pick 18. Kiffin stated that Floyd is an “outstanding football player” but didn’t feel like Floyd was “quick-twitch” enough to excel in his 4-3 defense. And the numbers certainly show that. Compare Floyd to Tyrone Crawford, who expects to be a key contributor as a defensive tackle in 2012.
20 Yd Shuttle
Crawford, who has actually beefed up a few pounds in the offseason, is just a better overall athlete than Floyd. Although Crawford is lighter than Floyd, Crawford has the body type that Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli are looking for.
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Tyrone Crawford was selected in the third round by the Cowboys in the 2012 draft. Crawford, who played his college ball at Boise St, was drafted to play defensive end in the team’s 3-4 defense. But when the team switched to Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 Tampa Two defense, some wondered where Crawford might fit. One argument against Tyrone Crawford in 2012 was that he produced zero sacks in 2012 on 303 snaps. Yet, NFL draft analysts wanted the Dallas Cowboys to use a first round pick on Sharrif Floyd who only produced 4.5 sacks in his entire college career. The measurables are their for Tyrone Crawford to develop into a pass rusher in Kiffin’s defense. He needs to now just go out onto the field and show that he can do it.
But before Tyrone Crawford can show that he can make plays in the passing game, Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli need to be able to trust that he can hold up against the run. According to Pro Football Focus, Tyrone Crawford graded out as the 16th 3-4 defensive end versus the run and 17th overall. Pro Football Focus also credits Crawford with zero missed tackles during the 2012 season. I believe Rod Marinelli sees Tyrone Crawford as his version of Israel Idonije from the Chicago Bears (now with the Detroit Lions.) Idonije was never known for his pass-rushing ability in Chicago, but he was a valuable piece in the great Chicago Bear defense. Both play at around 280 pounds, Crawford, like Idonije, has the flexibilty to play tackle and end in a 4-3.
Rotoworld.com recently put out a post that suggested that teams will try to attack the Dallas Cowboys on the ground in 2013. And with the strength of the Dallas Cowboys being their pass-rushers and their cornerbacks, this should come as no surprise. The following play is from the 2012 Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins and displays a reason as to why Tyrone Crawford might be better suited as an early down run stopper in 2013.
On this play, Tyrone Crawford is matched up against Pro-Bowl left tackle Trent Williams. Williams, who graded out as one of the best run-blocking offensive lineman in the league in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus, is also one of the strongest tackles in the league. What I like about this play is everything that Crawford does before he can even pursue the ball carrier. Because the Washington Redskins line up in the Pistol formation, Crawford has to watch the ball at all times because of the dangers that Robert Griffin III possess as a mobile, play-action quarterback.
Crawford survives Williams’ initial punch and his eyes are still locked onto the ball. Robert Griffin III is deadly in the play-action game, which makes their running game so dangerous. Running back Alfred Morris lives off cut back lanes and following his lead blocker. On this play, fullback Niles Paul is responsible for Inside Linebacker Dan Connor. If Paul can get to Conner and shield him from the running back, this play has the potential to go the distance.
I highlighted Crawford’s feet on this play to show how strong of a lower base he has. Crawford’s feet never move during the run play, staying in his lane from the beginning of the snap. Williams loves to overpower his defender, but Crawford’s base and leverage allow him to win at the line of scrimmage. The Redskins have this play blocked perfectly. Antony Spencer is shielded out of the play by the tight end and Niles Paul is just about to get to Connor. The only person that can save this play from a long gain is Tyrone Crawford.
Crawford tries to disengage from Williams, but manages only to free up his right arm. Yet, he is still able to wrap his arm around Morris and bring him down. Why is this play memorable though? Because the Washington offense has this played blocked perfectly. If Crawford can’t disengage from Williams and doesn’t get an arm on Morris, this is potentially a huge play for the Redskin offense. Crawford makes this play look…well routine. And that’s exactly what the Dallas Cowboys will need from him in 2013.
To conclude the scouting report on Tyrone Crawford, his best fit in Monte Kiffin’s defense might be as an early down run stuffer that has some pass rushing potential when you factor in his measurables. I can envision the team using Hatcher and Crawford as their early down defensive tackles, while saving Jay Ratliff for third downs and obvious passing situations. Crawford has the potential to be a really effective player in this league, and 2012 showed that at the very least he is an effective run defender. Can he be a player that makes Dallas Cowboy fans forget about that one night in April when they passed on Sharrif Floyd? I think that we will find the answer during the 2013 season.