A year later, they moved to the 4-3 scheme and Crawford missed the season with a torn Achilles. When he returned in 2014, the Cowboys moved him to under tackle in Rod Marinelli’s defense and were convinced they had found him a home, rewarding him with a five-year contract before the 2015 season.
Injuries elsewhere along the line forced Crawford to left defensive end, taking away his strength against interior linemen and putting him against tackles in space. It has led to outside critiques that have been unfair because the Cowboys have not used him in a way to take advantage of what he does best.
The Cowboys have moved Crawford to right defensive end this season, and he is flourishing. He has four sacks, one off his career high. He has a sack in three of his past four games and even though he did not have a sack last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, he had three quarterback pressures.
“I mean right end is the spot right now,” Crawford said. “Where I’m needed, I’m going to go and play my best ball there. I might have to play inside this week. You never know. But I’m definitely going to give my best wherever I am. But right now, it’s right end and it’s clicking for me. My hips are flipping better at that side and it’s just been working.”
At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Crawford is not the prototypical pass-rusher against left tackle. DeMarcus Ware is more the prototype many see at that side.
“Typically that guy is your really sleek, up-the-field pass-rusher,” coach Jason Garrett said. “That’s the image a lot of people have in their mind. Rod Marinelli does such a good job of trying to find the best places for guys. Having looked at the combinations we have, we felt like give him a shot over there and see how he does, maybe he plays a little differently than other people who have played that spot but he certainly can be effective. He’s a very good run defender and he’s done a very good job of affecting the quarterback by pushing the pocket throughout the year. It’s been a good home for him.”
Part of the move for Crawford has been the success of DeMarcus Lawrence at left defensive end. Lawrence has 10.5 sacks, a career high and second most in the NFL.
Crawford’s ability to defend the run has also helped the Cowboys shore up what was a leaky unit in their three losses.
“It might not be gaudy, it might not be flashy, but he’s effective doing what he does,” Garrett said. “The biggest thing was to get the right combination of guys out there for more plays than not and let’s find spots for them.”