IRVING, Texas – It remains to be seen if Tyrone Crawford will need to play defensive end this season, but he's certainly willing to give it a go.
Whatever helps the pass rush improve is what Crawford wants to do. And with DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory facing four-game suspensions, a short-term position switch might be just what the Cowboys need.
"I'm going to do what I have to do. It's definitely a possibility if needed," Crawford said on Friday. "We can't have guys taking on such a big role they haven't taken on before, so it's all of us working together helping each other out."
Crawford began his career as a defensive end before finding a home – and a contract extension – as the Cowboys' starting under-tackle. It makes sense that, faced with the possibility of a limited lineup, he might consider a temporary shift to play one of the outside spots while the Cowboys wait for their suspended stars to return.
"I've been along the line all the way down to nose from last year, so I feel comfortable," Crawford said. "We just have to step up and take on a role that may be uncomfortable for us. It's not only going to be me out there but Jack Crawford, David Irving, those guys are going to step up and go outside, too."
It's easy to turn the focus to Crawford, considering his resume. Outside of Lawrence, he's the only player in the Cowboys' rotation with extensive starting experience – not to mention sacks. But Crawford makes a valid point that the Cowboys have other options to consider before making a switch.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli agreed with that assessment, though he did add that he's comfortable moving Crawford if need be.
"I want to see how some of these other guys come along that might be able to help us, but he's my ace in the hole," Marinelli said.
One way or another, expectations will be high for Crawford as he returns from offseason surgery on the shoulder injury that bothered him for most of last season. He fought through that pain to post five sacks last year, but he said he's encouraged as he continues his recovery.
"It's extremely helpful to just have the strength back that I didn't have last year," he said. "I'm back up to almost where I was before the injury. I'm feeling real good. I'm feeling confident about it as well."
The Cowboys will be counting on it, given that Crawford is easily their most experienced pass rusher – especially in the short-term. Jeremy Mincey and Greg Hardy didn't return in the offseason. Lawrence and Gregory also won't be available to start the season – a fact Crawford was none too pleased about.
"I was definitely disappointed, surprised – all that," he said. "I had my words with them. But that's all you can really do at this point, is have your words with them and tell them how you feel. Maybe just try and get in their head that this has got to change."
It's too early to say if that message got through, but there's not much the Cowboys can do about what's already happened. They'll have Gregory and Lawrence for the duration of OTAs and training camp, but they will be without two of their top pass rushers for the start of the regular season.
That fact has prompted plenty of doubt among fans and media alike this offseason – especially given the Cowboys' struggles to rush the passer with a more stable cast of contributors. Crawford is aware of that, but he said he's ready for the challenge of proving people wrong.
"Not a lot of people look at us like a D-Line that can do anything," he said. "But we're here to shock the world again just like we did a couple of years ago with guys like George Selvie and all that. It's going to be fun."