Heading into his second NFL season, the future is a little bit cloudy for defensive end Tyrone Crawford. Crawford, who spent last season learning the five-technique defensive end position in the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme, will stay on the outside in Monte Kiffin’s 4-3. Let’s take a look at Crawford’s measurements compared to the starting defensive ends in Dallas.
Tyrone Crawford: 6-4, 285 pounds
DeMarcus Ware: 6-4, 254 pounds
Anthony Spencer: 6-3, 250 pounds
That’s a massive difference—35 pounds in the case of Crawford and Spencer. During Kiffin’s time in Tampa Bay, the typical strong side defensive end was 6-3, 279 pounds, while the typical weak side end was 6-3, 267 pounds. So based on what Kiffin has used in the past, Crawford is actually the best fit here as a strong side player. He’s slightly on the heavy side, but Ware and Spencer are basically two weak side defensive ends, and two light ones at that.
The problem for Crawford in 2013 is that he won’t see the same sort of playing time that he did as a rookie, barring an injury or a position switch. Last season, Crawford played 303 snaps because of some injuries and the fact that 3-4 ends are usually involved in a rotation. This year, he’ll really get on the field only when Ware or Spencer are off of it, which doesn’t happen often.
When he’s on the field, I think Crawford can be a terror against the run. He registered 20 total tackles on 140 snaps against the run—a 14.3 percent tackle rate. However, Crawford could have trouble consistency generating a pass rush. He’s strong, but not particularly quick. We’ll really have to see more of Crawford to know for sure.
If Spencer would get injured and Crawford would step in as a starting end as soon as this season, he might be able to play the run just as effectively as Spencer. That’s high praise because Spencer has been one of the league’s premiere run defenders over the past few seasons.
However, Crawford would be a long-shot for more than a handful of sacks. He had a 3.1 percent pressure rate last year, albeit playing as a 3-4 defensive end. Even if his pressure rate increases to five percent and he plays the same number of pass-rush snaps as Spencer did in 2012, he’d still fall at only 16 pressures. Based on pressure-to-sack ratios, the most likely outcome for Crawford in a full season of play would thus be just four sacks.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.