It didn't take long for the injury bug that ruined the 2012 season for the Dallas Cowboys to strike again—this time within the first hour of the opening practice of training camp in Oxnard, California.
Second-year veteran Tyrone Crawford suffered a torn Achilles tendon right out of the gate and his season is finished.
This is a tremendous blow to the franchise, despite the fact that Crawford is still a young, somewhat raw football player that was really going to be needed on the defensive line this year. With the ability to play both defensive end and defensive tackle, Crawford was the only young blue-chip player the Cowboys have for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's new 4-3 alignment.
Despite Crawford's early departure, all is not lost for the Cowboys, but Dallas now has to rely on a combination of aging or completely unproven linemen as the regular season approaches. The Cowboys open the 2013 regular season against the New York Giants on September 8.
Factor in the ongoing legal drama and recent retirement of Josh Brent and it's getting mighty thin on the defensive line.
Kiffin's defensive line will not only need playmakers, but also a solid rotation of linemen. There's no doubt that the bodies will be there—but what about the capability?
Not to play Monday morning quarterback, but right now it's starting to look like it might have been a good idea to retain the services of former defensive tackle Marcus Spears, who's now lining up with the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Even though Ratliff was unable to stay healthy for much of last season, Spears—who ran the 4-3 with LSU in college—will never get a down in the 4-3 defensive front with the Cowboys, as Dallas made the official switch to the 3-4 in 2005, the former college standout's rookie season.
It's also worth re-examining the decision to pass on University of Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd in the first round of this year's draft back in April. Thought by many to be the top prospect at his position, the Cowboys elected to trade down to the end of the first round where they eventually selected center Travis Frederick from Wisconsin.
Well, it's all water under the bridge now, but that water seems to be rising some, doesn't it?
It will be interesting to see exactly how the Cowboys recover from Crawford's absence. It's been made obvious how at least one of Crawford's teammates feels about the loss. Veteran defensive tackle Jason Hatcher was quoted by SportsDayDFW.com's Jon Machota with the following on Sunday:
That guy is something special. It’s tough to see a guy like that going down. He was on the rise. But it’s not the end of the road. He has a long ways to go. He’s going to be one of the great ones. He has potential to be a Hall of Famer.
It will take some time now, but perhaps next season we can start seeing just how special Crawford will be.