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The Cowboys believed in Tyrone Crawford, now he's paying them back

The Cowboys took a risk by moving Tyrone Crawford to the interior defensive line. With the help of Rod Marinelli, he's ready to give back with a breakout season.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

I wasn't all that impressed with Tyrone Crawford when he played defensive end at the beginning of last season. He was a big, strong guy who was physical as hell against the run, but also kiiiinda limited as an edge rusher. He just wasn't bringing heat from the outside, and that's what you need to get from your defensive ends in that scheme.

The Dallas Cowboys tried a couple of players at the three technique spot in the first month of the season, but they still didn't seem to be getting what they needed out of the position. In Week 4, the Cowboys made the call to give Crawford a shot inside at three technique and elevate George Selvie to the starting left defensive end.

Up to that point, there was no way of knowing for sure how well Crawford would fit at the position because he missed all of the 2013 season, their first year implementing the 4-3 system, with a torn Achilles tendon. Crawford was a defensive end in their 3-4 scheme in 2012, his rookie year, but that's a much different animal. For whatever reason, the Cowboys were comfortable moving him inside, as the starter no less. They must have known something the rest of us didn't.

That might be an understatement.

Crawford might have been born to play the under tackle position. Not only was he still outstanding against the run after moving inside, but with his power, Crawford was able to get a helluva lot of push as a pass rusher. I don't know what he lifts in the weight room, but this dude was tossing interior offensive linemen around like rag dolls all year.

He was pretty raw technique-wise, which was to be expected. As far as I can tell it was his first time ever playing in that position. He also has an incredible motor which boosted his production, even when he wasn't great with his technique. What was readily apparent on film is that as the season went on, he got more and more comfortable inside. By the end of the year, his technique was starting to match his athletic ability and strength, and Crawford was really getting after it. Opposing teams suddenly had to account for him both in the run game and when they dropped back to pass. If they didn't, he was going to wreck their shit.

With a full offseason of practice at the position, I think the sky is the limit this year for Tyrone Crawford as a three technique. I'm biased, but I think he has one of the best defensive line coaches, Rod Marinelli, in NFL history as his defensive coordinator. Plus, he's going to eventually have help on the outside when defensive end Greg Hardy comes back from his suspension, which is scheduled to be Week 5. I would be surprised if Crawford doesn't notch more than seven sacks this season. That would not only more than double his sack output from last year, but also put him among elite company at the position.