The defense that lines up for the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 of the new season will be something of an unknown. The leadership will come from Tyrone Crawford.
Defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are both suspended for four games. Lawrence was sack leader for the team in 2015 and was expected to continue to step up his game this year, he’ll have less time to prove his worth than expected.
One year of Greg Hardy proved to be enough with Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett unwilling to rely on the defensive end for a second successive year. The Cowboys replaced Hardy’s experienced with veteran Cedric Thornton who will surely beef up the middle of the line. While my compatriot Jack Crawford will be wanting to extend that one year contract beyond 2017.
Rookies were drafted in the form of Maliek Collins and Charles Tapper. Collins is side lined with a broken foot and likely to be out for the first couple of weeks of the season at least.
The leadership of this defensive line will have to come from Tyrone Crawford. He’s versatile position wise and comfortable in this Rod Marinelli rotational system.
At 26 Tyrone Crawford is heading into his fifth year as a Cowboy. He sat out 2013 through injury but otherwise has been a reliable figure. Last year he was handed a bumper 5 year, $45 million contract. But a torn rotator cuff didn’t allow him to perform to the level he or anyone else expected.
With five sacks he was still productive but not influential enough; he couldn’t dominate opponents or take over games as required. It transpired that the injury limited Crawford to such a level he was pretty much just playing with the one hand. In fact he couldn’t even bench press 225lbs; something he did with ease at the combine in 2012.
Post-surgery at the end of the season, his strength has returned.
With Lawrence and Gregory suspended, it’s expected that Tyrone will be moved to defensive end. A position he’s played before yet more recently his time has come via the middle of the line. Nevertheless, it’s something he’s prepared for.
"“The different blocks you’re going to get are a little different at defensive end, but all of my reads will probably come right back as soon as I do it for a little while.” – Tyrone Crawford"
With an unknown quantity to this line still, just where Tyrone lines up remains to be seen. But improving the sack count and getting pressure on the quarterback is where they have to improve. David Helman writer for the Dallas Cowboys believes Crawford could be the man to lead the team.
"“I’m going to go with Tyrone Crawford, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, he’s not facing a four-game suspension – which will give him a leg up over the Cowboys’ other top pass rushers. More importantly, he plays the all-important three-technique position, which has long been touted as the most crucial position in Rod Marinelli’s defense…Crawford played most of the season with a bum shoulder last year, so the hope is that he’ll be fully healthy in 2016. If he is, I think he’s capable of seven or eight sacks – which is likely good enough to lead the team.” – David Helman, Dallas Cowboys.com"
Ultimately wherever Crawford lines up, his performances will be parallel to the success of the Cowboys team. The offense is expected to score a bucket load of points. Crawford will need to drag the defense over the winning line.