Among the coaching staff for the Dallas Cowboys, Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli stands out as a guy with a big personality. He demands a lot from his players and is not shy about letting them – and the media – know when his expectations are not being met.
He’ll also be the first to praise a guy that is performing well in his system on the defensive side of the ball, while continuously searching for ways to improve that player.
When asked about suspended second-year defensive end Randy Gregory on Wednesday, Marinelli had this to say:
“I’m training him like it’s his opening season. I’m going to grind on him, he needs the work to get better. He’s getting a lot of looks and he’ll continue to get that”
Randy Gregory is a bit of a polarizing name for Cowboys fans right now. Dallas’ second-round selection in the 2015 draft, the talented edge rusher missed 4 games early in the season with an ankle injury suffered during the opener against the Giants.
In that game, Gregory was promising, as he saw just 18 defensive snaps – making the most of them by consistently generating pressure from the right side against Eli Manning. When he returned from his injury, Randy was never the same player.
His snap counts did not increase significantly until the final 4 weeks of the season, and he ultimately ended 2015 without a sack. Instead of using this as further motivation to be a vital part of Marinelli’s pass-rushing rotation this year, Gregory failed another drug test in the off season that landed him his current 4 game suspension.
Rod’s quote is interesting here, because I feel it is exactly what Gregory needs, and exactly how the team needs to treat him.
The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2016 NFL Draft with 3 picks in the top 100. With Maliek Collins suffering a broken foot during practice recently, the only one of these picks that is expected to make any impact at all this season (albeit; a large one) is first-round running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Instead, the Cowboys turn to their 2015 draft class for 2016 impact. Byron Jones had a terrific rookie season, and now factors heavily into the team’s defensive plans as a safety. Damien Wilson, Mark Nzeocha, and Ryan Russell will all compete for more snaps on the defensive side of the ball as later round picks, while Chaz Green does so on the offensive line.
The one player that has yet to show that he can make any measurable impact at all is Gregory, leaving the Cowboys defensive line as one of their bigger concerns right now. While there is hope for some unproven players to shine in Marinelli’s system and emerge this season, Randy Gregory included, none of them have the tag of being a top 100 draft pick attached to them like he does.
This is why Gregory would be best to forget about everything that happened in 2015, and set his mind on competing for a job in 2016 as if he is a rookie. If he does this while constantly working against the first-team offensive line, Gregory should quickly realize that a lot can change very quickly in the NFL.
First year players like Benson Mayowa and rookie Charles Tapper will look to take snaps away from Gregory, who can use 2015 as a driving force to beat out any competition and prove that he is the guy the Cowboys wanted when they called his name on draft night.
Truthfully, this entire organization may be better off forgetting about the dreadful 2015 season, asides from using it as motivation for 2016. For Randy Gregory, this is more than just a potential story line, but something he needs to do in an attempt to cement a future in this league.
A hopefully fired-up Randy Gregory will take the field at AT&T Stadium on October 9th against the Bengals for the first time after serving his four game suspension to start 2016. Playing with a chip on his shoulder, let’s hope he becomes the missing link for a Cowboys team that is already off to a solid start.
Rod Marinelli certainly thinks that Gregory can be that guy, along with thinking that his defense without Gregory can be a big reason for any early success the Cowboys do have.
The rest is up to #94…