(Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2015 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford.)
Name: Tyrone Crawford
Position: Defensive Tackle
Experience: 3 seasons
College: Boise State
Key stat: Despite notching just three sacks, Crawford finished second on the team in quarterback pressures, with 29 on the year.
Contract Status:Signed through the 2015 season.
2014 Impact: What helps you most as a personnel department is when you work with a group of coaches that are willing to see the value in a player and do everything in their power to make him work in the scheme. Tyrone Crawford is just that type of player and the coaches found a way to make it work with him. Even before the season, there were questions of whether Crawford was going to play at defensive end or defensive tackle. The bottom line was that they knew that they needed to find a spot somewhere along the line because there was just too much talent there not to provide him that opportunity. There were also the questions about his health and how would he bounce back after sitting out the entire season with an Achilles injury. Initially Crawford worked as an end while the team was going through OTAs and minicamps, but eventually we started to hear the whispers that he would be making a move inside -- not as the nose but as the under-tackle or three-technique, which was surprising unto itself. What appeared to be an awkward fit actually was a stroke of genius by Rod Marinelli and the staff. Everyone believed that Henry Melton was going to be the starter, but that never really was the case. By putting Crawford at the three and going with that, it allowed Melton more time to heal from his own injury and it strengthened the Cowboys' run defense by pairing Crawford with Nick Hayden in front of Rolando McClain. With those three on the field, opponents had a difficult time when it came to moving the ball on the ground. The move also allowed Crawford to move closer to the quarterback instead of having him rush off the edge, where his lack of pass rush moves put him at a disadvantage. Crawford proved that by lining him up over the guards he could use his initial quickness and power to battle blockers that were not accustomed to dealing with that. The results for Crawford were immediate and for a player who never really had a home, he was the most consistent piece to a defense that played well above what most people were willing to give them credit for before the season started.
Where He Fits: When practices open for the 2015 Dallas Cowboys, I fully expect that we will once again see Tyrone Crawford lining up as the starting under-tackle for this squad. With a productive year under his belt and the experience that he was able to gain, you will continue to see a player that will grow and develop in the number of tackles that he will make but also in those sack numbers. His technique was good during the season, but with an entire offseason of working with Rod Marinelli, Leon Lett and Ben Bloom, there will be more tools added his belt to help him for the position.
Writers' AnalysisDavid Helman:I joked throughout the season that Tyrone Crawford was about six steps away from a Pro Bowl campaign. He finished with just three sacks on the year, but he was oh-so-close to about five or six more. For a guy we were considering at defensive end for so long, it took almost no time for him to establish himself in the middle of that line. Crawford's performance at the three-technique is huge for the Cowboys financially, because it gives them some flexibility with Henry Melton. The younger, cheaper Crawford was the more consistent, and it sounds far more appealing to start Crawford and his $675,000 salary over Melton and the $8 million option it would cost to bring him back. This isn't to say the Cowboys don't need pass rush help, as Rod Marinelli loves to work his guys in rotation. But it's a credit to Crawford that he entered his third season as an unknown and will enter his fourth season as the favorite to start. If he builds on this past season, I expect big stats and a bigger payday for Crawford when we're having this conversation in 2016.