Tyrone Crawford on Cowboys' defensive defections: 'I just trust we have a plan'
The Cowboys lost six heavy-rotation contributors from last year's defense
It was somewhat expected given that they just finished a 13-3 season and had limited amounts of cap space coming into free agency, but it’s likely that no NFL team has seen its roster plundered more this offseason than the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas lost two starters from the best offensive line in football (Ronald Leary to the Broncos, Doug Free to retirement), but it’s actually the defense that has been more affected. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli gave at least 400 snaps to 14 different players in 2016, and six of those 14 players are no longer with the team.
While there has been consternation in some circles about the state of the Dallas defense (which was already a team weakness) post-exodus, one of the eight 400-plus snap holdovers (defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford) isn’t worried.
“I just trust we have a plan,” Crawford said, per the Dallas Morning News. “With the defense that we run, Marinelli is going to get a guy in there and he’s going to have him doing the right thing anyway. I’m excited for next year. I’m not worried about what’s happening this offseason. Just excited to get going.”
The pieces the team lost on defense -- Church and McClain excepted -- haven’t exactly been high-level contributors in Dallas; but anytime you lose six players that were on the field this often, depth becomes an issue. The Cowboys did bring in three low-dollar free agents to help make up some of the 3,638 snaps they lost from the six players that left. They signed Nolan Carroll away from the Eagles to play cornerback; reunited defensive tackle Stephen Paea with Marinelli, under whom Paea had his best NFL seasons; and picked up former Giants and Seahawks defensive end Damontre Moore to help out on the edge. None are exactly star contributors, but they should at least help make up some of the depth that was lost.
Dallas still has a lot of work to do, though. That trio combined to play just over 1,300 snaps last season, meaning there are still 2,300-plus for which the Cowboys haven’t accounted. Some of that difference will be accounted for by giving in-house options like Anthony Brown, Jeff Heath, and Kavon Frazier more snaps to make up for the departures of Carr, Church, Wilcox, and Claiborne, and doing the same with Maliek Collins, David Irving, DeMarcus Lawrence, and 2016 fourth-rounder Charles Tapper (who missed all of 2016 due to injury) along the defensive line.
But the Cowboys still lack high-level options and depth both up front and on the back end -- they also badly lack youth in the secondary -- so they’ll have to be aggressive adding more talent in the draft. Marinelli has shown throughout his career as a coordinator that he can get a defense to equal more than the sum of its parts, but it also seems like the Cowboys should give him some better parts to work with sometime soon. Dallas is returning nearly every member of its offensive core, and the majority of that core is both young (the ageless Jason Witten aside, Dez Bryant is now the team’s oldest offensive starter) and locked in long-term. It’s high time to start building out the same way on the other side of the ball.
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