Secret Superstars: Dallas Cowboys
In the 2012 draft the Dallas Cowboys were looking to build up Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defensive front. They took a slightly undersized 5-technique 3-4 end by the name of Tyrone Crawford. Crawford’s playing time gradually grew over the course of his rookie season and by the end of the year he was looking the part of a starting 3-4 end. A torn Achilles sidelined him for his entire second year, but in Year 3 he was able to make the Transition to defensive tackle in Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 front and produce a breakout year. Now he’s the 2015 PFF Secret Superstar for the Dallas Cowboys.
Crawford’s college career started with two years at Bakersfield College where he was a first-team all-conference defensive end as a freshman. His sophomore year saw more accolades as he was awarded a spot on the JUCO All-America first team and totaled 42 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and eight sacks. He then transferred to Boise state for his junior and senior seasons. He was a backup for most of his junior year but still managed 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Named first team All-Mountain West Conference as a senior, Crawford tallied 44 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks. The 6-foot-4 285-pound defensive end was taken by the Dallas Cowboys with the 81st overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Crawford saw limited snaps during his rookie season and was normally fiinishing in the 15-25 snaps-per-game range. He played in more of a standard 5-technique 3-4 end role which limited his pass rushing opportunities, but he did make a solid impact in the run game finishing eighth in our 3-4 DE Run Stop Percentage standings with a 9.0% mark and 12 total run stops. He finished his rookie year with a -1.2 overall grade but over the last four games his +4.0 grade ranked eighth at the position.
There was a lot of excitement for Crawford’s second season, with Kiffen installing a new defense and the possibly of a new role for Crawford. Unfortunately for Crawford and the Cowboys, he suffered the Achilles injury and missed the entire 2013 season. The Cowboys had to wait until 2014 to see what a healthy Crawford could do with that new role.
The new plan was for Crawford to play strong side defensive end and move inside to defensive tackle on passing downs. He played mostly end for the first three games of the season but was shifted inside to a full-time DT role in Week 4 and then locked down the starting position for the rest of the season. Finishing with a +11.9 overall grade, good for 13th overall among DTs, Crawford’s +12.5 pass rushing grade was eighth-best. This gave Dallas another effective interior rusher to pair with Henry Melton.
One of the biggest factors that leads us to believe Crawford is here to stay, was his consistency last season. He posted just two games that were graded in the red and finished in the green 13 times. Some of his highlight games included a Week 2 performance against Tennessee (+4.8 with six total pressures), his Week 7 game against the Giants (+4.1 with four stops and two pressures), and his Week 13 game against the Eagles (+2.3 with four stops and three pressures).
With Melton and his 10th-ranked Pass Rush Productivity rating heading to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the pressure will be on Crawford to completely take over the 3-technique role in Rod Marinelli’s Tampa-2 defense. The Cowboys added more D-line pieces via the draft (Randy Gregory) and free agency (Greg Hardy) and the two dynamic edge rushers could eventually give Crawford even more room to work inside. With a bump in snaps and what could be an increase in production, look for Secret Superstar Tyrone Crawford to be a key contributor to the Cowboys’ defense going forward.