The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of big names on their roster. Players that they need to have significant impacts for the Cowboys for them to go as far as they want to go. In addition to the star players, there are several members of the roster that get overlooked on what they can contribute to the team. And sometimes, they’re cast aside altogether.
Despite the prevailing narratives on these players, they’ll make significant contributions to the Dallas Cowboys in 2020.
1. Tyrone Crawford, Defensive Line
There isn’t a player on the Dallas Cowboys roster that fans and analysts alike have tried to get rid of as often as they’ve wanted to get rid of Tyrone Crawford. All because the Dallas Cowboys gave him a contract that was a little rich for what Crawford would eventually become.
The reality is Tyrone Crawford is pretty cheap. Among interior defensive linemen, Crawford’s $9 million salary for 2020 ranks 24th in the NFL. If you want to put him among edge rushers, he’s 32nd in the NFL.
That’s a pretty solid value for a guy who can play several spots along the defensive line and in multiple defensive fronts. Whether you want to line him up as a defensive end in a three or four-man front or as a defensive tackle in a four-man front, Crawford can help you at multiple positions.
As new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan has come in with the desire to play multiple fronts, Crawford’s a perfect player for what he wants to do.
Crawford has been selfless in his time with the Dallas Cowboys and has provided a lot of leadership on the field and in the locker room. He was missed in 2019 as he battled hip issues in the early part of the season before getting sent to injured reserve.
Tyrone Crawford is still one of the team’s best run-defenders and is an underrated pass rusher. His last full season back in 2018, Crawford came away with 5.5 sacks. Not elite numbers, but productive for someone who is a “glue guy” for this team.
Every team that has ever won a championship has had a guy that brings it all together. Often, they aren’t the highest-paid or even the best player on the team, but a player that has the respect of everyone in the locker room because of their work ethic. They typically come through in big moments.
Heading into the final year of his contract with the Cowboys, Crawford will play a significant role as the team looks to get Aldon Smith, Bradlee Anae, Trysten Hill, and Neville Gallimore up to speed. He’s excellent insurance if none of those guys are ready for significant snaps.
2. Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback
The Dallas Cowboys have invested heavily in their cornerback group this offseason. Though Byron Jones was allowed to leave for the Miami Dolphins in free agency to become the highest-paid cornerback in the history of the NFL, the Cowboys brought in five new cornerbacks and re-signed Anthony Brown to a three-year $15 million deal.
Though they come with a variety of experiences and levels of investment, it’s clear the Dallas Cowboys’ front office is preparing for the potential departures of fourth-year cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the 2021 offseason.
While he has just one year remaining on his rookie contract, Awuzie shouldn’t be overlooked. Yes, there were times where Awuzie could have been better, but it’s not like he was getting burnt all the time. Did he allow some receptions? Yes. However, he was almost always right where he needed to be to make a play.
With Byron Jones gone, the likelihood that Awuzie is the target of offensive coordinator’s game-planning decreases. Because Jones locked down the other side of the field, coordinators took the path of lesser resistance by going after Awuzie. Now, the Cowboys don’t have their shutdown cornerback, which could alleviate some of the pressure placed on Awuzie.
A new scheme that will blitz more may leave Awuzie out on an island more, but quarterbacks won’t have the time to find space in the pocket to make throws from a stable platform.
Chidobe Awuzie was better in 2019 than people want to remember, but in 2020, he has a chance to make a name for himself. Despite all the investments, Awuzie will remain at his left cornerback spot in 2020 with the potential to earn a big payday if he can build off of his 2019 season.
3. Connor Williams, Left Guard
It seems that everyone is ready to insert 2019 third-round pick, Connor McGovern, into the starting lineup at left guard. The problem is, he’ll need to supplant incumbent Connor Williams. That won’t be as easy as some might think.
Though the Dallas Cowboys have a new offensive line coach and head coach, which will provide a clean slate for some of these training camp competitions to play out, Williams arrives at camp with a leg up on the competition. Williams is entering his third training camp with the team and has started 21 games in his first two seasons in the NFL.
Sure, there was a bit of a learning curve in 2018 as he made the transition to guard, but he rebounded nicely after coming back from injury. He played well against Aaron Donald in the Cowboys loss to the Rams in the 2018 divisional round of the playoffs.
With a third offseason to add weight and muscle to play on the interior, the job is Connor Williams’ job to lose. If all things are equal in training camp, the edge will go to the more experienced Williams. McGovern hasn’t played or practiced football in a year, so he’ll need to get up to speed when the Cowboys return to the practice facilities in preparation for training camp.
Before we make any assumptions that McGovern will take over at left guard, the Cowboys coaching staff probably needs to see him on the field first.
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New players added to the roster aren’t always better than what you have. Sometimes, we can convince ourselves that change for change’s sake is a better option than the known. Sometimes, though, different isn’t always better. Tyrone Crawford, Chidobe Awuzie, and Connor Williams may not be spectacular players at their positions, but they’re reliable and can be counted on to perform to an NFL standard.
The Cowboys have won a lot of games over the past several years with these players. The narratives surrounding them shouldn’t take away from that reality.