The Dallas Cowboys defense has been the story of this season, primed to show off their collective talents in the playoffs. As NFC East champions, the Cowboys will host either the Seahawks or Vikings in the Wild Card Round. On Rod Marinelli’s side of the ball, feel good stories like Jaylon Smith’s or rookie Leighton Vander Esch’s have made Defensive End Randy Gregory just another guy – precisely what he needs at this point in his career, despite being one of the biggest reasons the Cowboys can contend in the NFC.
The Cowboys win over the Buccaneers last week caused a subdued reaction as the team clinched the division. It was likely Gregory’s best game as a pro, forcing two fumbles that both led to touchdowns. For a player that was unsure if he’d ever see the field again after his latest suspension, Gregory is paying off the Cowboys trust in him reclaiming a starting DE position this season.
Gregory has five sacks and ten quarterback hits in his last seven games, consistently flashing pass rush skills that nobody else on the roster can match. This is even true of DeMarcus Lawrence, whose found ways to be disruptive despite just one sack in his last four games.
Considering the Cowboys offense managed just two touchdowns in two games where the NFC East was theirs for the taking, Gregory’s 14 points provided off turnovers against Tampa should go a very long way with his teammates and coaches.
The last two times the Cowboys have made the playoffs, they’ve been eliminated by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers will not be in the postseason this year. The Cowboys consolation prize? A gauntlet of accomplished starters in Russell Wilson/Kirk Cousins, Drew Brees, and Jared Goff potentially await them.
The Cowboys pass rush will be crucial in their hopes of playing into February, and thanks to Gregory they absolutely can. Dallas has even overcome a number of costly penalties from him to see his quarterback pressures rise. With it, quality wins against the Saints, Eagles (x2), and Falcons have legitimized the entire Cowboys defense as a force to be reckoned with.
With a herd mentality instilled by Marinelli, the Cowboys believe anyone on their defense can make a game-changing play at any time. This belief extends well into the secondary behind Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard. Starting up front with Gregory, aided by the likes of Tyrone Crawford, Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Lawrence, is as good of a place as any for this play making ability to show up for Dallas and spark a playoff run.
The Cowboys are a playoff team that know opposing coaches will have to prepare for Randy Gregory off the edge. Neither are these absolutes were believable at various points this year, most recently the fact that the Cowboys could win their division. In doing so, their sights are set on higher goals, with Gregory having nowhere but up to go in a career that can take off this postseason.