COMMENTARY | Are you still a bit skeptical on what could happen with the Dallas Cowboys switching to a 4-3 defense this season? It's alright if you are. And if you're excited, that's alright, too. That's what this time in practice and OTAs is for.
There won't be any clear-cut answer as to how this new defense will play until training camp and preseason roll around. Until then, there are plenty of question marks. Most notably, the defensive line.
The good news for the Cowboys is if there are any questions, they have an answer: Second-year defensive end Tyrone Crawford.
With all of the focus on the offense and how that unit looks to improve up front, this defense brings a lot of excitement and a lot of promise, especially this former Boise State pass rusher who didn't see much time on the field in Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme last year.
Crawford was Dallas' second draft pick last year, and he made his mark for the Broncos by playing as a 4-3 down lineman. He recorded 13.5 sacks in two years at Boise State, along with 14 sacks in his one lone year in junior college.
He not only has the tools to become an instant starter on this defense, but he's in the right situation. At 6-foot-4 and at 285 pounds, Crawford switches back to his original position as an outside pass rusher, but he can also play defensive tackle as well. Reports have said he's put on some more weight, which could mean he's over 290 mostly in muscle.
That versatility will work wonders for Crawford under Rod Maranelli's coaching. Perhaps the most underrated hire this offseason, Maranelli has the pedigree to turn this defensive line into a bonafide force, and Crawford is his first project.
He doesn't come off as an alarming pass rusher, but more so someone to make plays in the running game, which is what the Cowboys desperately need (especially in their own division), as well as an injection of youth in that defensive line.
Ratliff, Hatcher and Ware are each over 30 years old, and Spencer is about to turn 30, and if he has another terrific year like he did last year, he'll command a big pay day from the Cowboys or look elsewhere.
Crawford has already shown great promise in practice, as he recorded two sacks today (albeit against a suspect offensive line, but that's another story for another day). Nevertheless, he possesses everything Monte Kiffin and Maranelli need for this defensive line, and if one guy slips up, he looks like he's primed for a big second season.
Who knows what else beyond that.
Danny Webster is a featured columnist for the Dallas Cowboys. You can reach him by going on Twitter and finding @DannyWebster21.
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