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...
Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.
Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line
The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.
Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.
Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.
Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp
What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.
The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.
Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.
To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.
Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.
If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.
Cowboys LB Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week Against Eagles
You already knew that Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker, had a great night last Sunday in Philadelphia. Apparently the rest of the football world agreed, and now he's been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
The award is the first of what could be many for Leighton, who has emerged as a defensive leader for the Cowboys. He's been playing more in the absence of veteran Sean Lee, who has been battling hamstring issues all season.
THE. WOLF. HUNTER. Congratulations to #DallasCowboys rookie LB @VanderEsch38 on being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week! → https://t.co/XeSTt2tIpX
This is the second Player of the Week award for a Dallas Cowboys this season. Kicker Brett Maher won the Special Teams version in Week 4 after going 4-for-4 and hitting a game winner over the Detroit Lions.
The Defensive Player award hasn't gone to a Cowboys since Week of 2017, when DeMarcus Lawrence put up three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.
Leighton's recognition is also well-earned. He led Dallas with 13 tackles and an interception in a pivotal road victory against a division rival. In what was arguably a "must-win" game for the Cowboys, their first-round pick stepped up and stood out.
A few more games like this, and Vander Esch could be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But even above personal accolades, Leighton's play could help the Cowboys make a push in the NFC East.
If nothing else, he's making that first-round pick look smarter every week.
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Things have not gone well for Dak Prescott this season. His play has been up and down and he hasn't given the team or Cowboys Nation much reason to believe that he's the future at the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys. Speaking to 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas today, Legendary Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Roger Staubach offered support for the Cowboys current quarterback, Dak Prescott.
Staubach had this to say when asked about Dak Prescott.
Roger Staubach on @1053thefan said #Dak is a part of the problem with the #Cowboys offense, but he is not the problem.
Roger Staubach didn't start in the NFL until the third year of his career and thinks that's a good time for the quarterback to make the jump. At this point, we are 40 games into Dak Prescott's NFL career and we can see some of the things that he's good at as well as some of the things that he struggles with.
As Staubach points out, Dak Prescott has the intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, even if his play hasn't been what you'd want at the position. Roger admits that Dak shoulders some of the blame for the offensive woes of the last 16 games, but realizes that there are many reasons for the Cowboys offensive failures this season.
Roger Staubach believes that the Dallas Cowboys can win with Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback despite some of the flaws that have crept up over the last 16 games. He's not wrong.
Staubach's pretty accurate in his assessment that there's been more good than bad. If you look at the first 24 games of Dak Prescott's career, he was really good. Through the last 16 games, he's struggled at times. So technically there's been more good than bad. The problem is that over the last 16 games, there's been more bad than good. The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and lately Dak hasn't done much. We can debate all day on how much of the struggles Prescott's faced are on him, but everyone should be willing to admit that some of the struggles are on him.
It's plausible that the confidence in Prescott that Jerry Jones has comes from Roger's belief that the Cowboys can win games with Dak Prescott at quarterback; and they have. In Prescott's career, the Dallas Cowboys are 25-15. Though wins are a team stat and not a quarterback stat, it just goes as evidence that Dak Prescott can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League.
Dak has some flaws, but the offense and its play caller haven't helped Prescott much this season. We should be critical of Prescott because he has a big pay day coming, if you believe Jerry Jones. While Dak has some flaws, he also has some traits that can make him a good quarterback in the NFL with the right coaching situation behind him. 2018 may be running out of time for the Dallas Cowboys and their playoff prospects, but the Cowboys have time before they have to make a decision on Prescott.
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