The signing of Jack Crawford in the 2017 offseason was not a move that electrified the Falcons fan base. Most had a reaction that went something like this.
*looks up Jack Crawford's pfr stats* pic.twitter.com/mbvSXz64bL
— 4-4 to 4-12 Rise Down (@_fortheloveofAj) March 9, 2017
Rightfully so, many were much more intrigued with the one-year deal Atlanta handed to Dontari Poe. After all, Poe was a former first-round draft pick and Pro-Bowl nose tackle for the Chiefs, and the Falcons desperately needed some help stopping the run.
Crawford’s fan base in Atlanta took even more of a hit when he landed on injured-reserve a few weeks into the 2017 season and never returned. Little did we know, he would come back as one of the most impactful players on the defense.
There has not been much to praise on the defensive side for the DirtyBirds in 2018, but if there are two players who deserve a lot of credit for the recent turnaround, it is Grady Jarrett and Jack Crawford. We won’t spend too much time on Jarrett. All I have to say is if he doesn’t make the Pro-Bowl this year it is simply criminal. Crawford, on the other hand, has been a sleeping giant and is starting to make a name for himself around the league.
Formerly a defensive end, the Falcons have opted to slide him inside to the tackle position next to Jarrett. As it turns out, that is probably where he should have been playing his entire career. The size is evident. At 6’5″ and close to 300 pounds, Crawford has the ability to bang around with the big uglies on the interior, but it’s his quickness that comes from being an edge-rusher that gives him an advantage at defensive tackle. Here is just one of the two sacks he recorded on Alex Smith this past weekend.
Looks like Alex Smith asked for a spot of tea.
Jack Crawford with the sack pic.twitter.com/MrWGLodr46
— Carlton (@SlopingGiraffe) November 4, 2018
This is another one from the Falcons victory over the Buccaneers.
Jack Crawford 3rd down sack pic.twitter.com/Fr8g8CzVay
— Carlton (@SlopingGiraffe) October 14, 2018
That’s a spin move you don’t see out of a lot of defensive tackles, and with quality pass-rushers surrounding him like Tak, Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett; Crawford is making the most of his one-on-one opportunities. In 8 games this season, he’s already recorded 4.5 sacks. That is half as many as he had his entire six-year career entering this season.
According to Pro Football Focus, he is the third highest-rated defender on the team behind Jarrett and Kazee. More impressively, check out these stats when the starting defensive front is on the field.
The former 5th-round pick out of Penn State is enjoying a career year in his 7th season in the NFL, and there is no doubt a lot of it has to do with Dan Quinn and Marquand Manuel, two tremendous defensive minds. They know how to get the best out of every player and somehow have found a way to weather the storm despite missing half of their starters. Now, it’s time to get this team ready for a playoff push, and Crawford will be a critical part of that.