Just the other day, The Ringer named one “x-factor” for each NFL team. For the Dallas Cowboys, they named recently reinstated Defensive End Randy Gregory. It's definitely a good choice as Gregory has amazing ability to bend the corner and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. It's probably not wise to have such huge expectations for Gregory at this point in his comeback, but if he were to have that kind of an impact, it would absolutely transform the defense.
Here's what The Ringer's Danny Kelly had to say about Randy Gregory and the Dallas Cowboys.
“After missing all of last year to suspension following a series of violations of the league's substance-abuse policy, Gregory has been fully reinstated and looks ready to get his career back on track. The 2015 second-rounder has grabbed just one sack in 14 games, but still boasts the length and first-step explosiveness to develop into a productive pass-rusher. With David Irving set to miss the first four games to suspension and the team's 2017 first-rounder, Taco Charlton, still developing, a Gregory breakout would be just what the Cowboys' defense needs to contend in a tough NFC East.”
Danny Kelly – The Ringer
Kelly's reasoning is sound. The Dallas Cowboys could really use another pass rusher, especially early in the season with Irving set to miss the first four games. If Gregory can get on the field and give pressure in the passing game, it'll help everyone along the defensive line and the pass defense to get the defense off the field.
There's still a lot to see out of Gregory before the team would be willing to give him a significant snap count. Not because Tyrone Crawford is a much better player, but because Crawford is a trusted player.
Gregory will thankfully have a full training camp and preseason to get up to speed for the team, but I could see them limiting him to situational pass rushing early in the season. Situations like second and long, third and long, or when the team has a sizable second half lead.
Otherwise, it'll still be Crawford on the field a lot until they feel they can trust Gregory with a big snap count.
If Gregory is the Defensive X-factor, What About the Offense?
In this analyst's humble opinion, it's Allen Hurns.
We know that Cole Beasley is going to get his targets; he's Quarterback Dak Prescott's favorite weapon through his first two seasons, but one thing we saw in 2017 is when team's take Beasley away, it makes things difficult on Prescott and the offense. Dak needed another wide receiver to step up and make plays in 2017 and for a lot of it, he was left wanting.
If Allen Hurns can stay healthy and on the field, he should be able to open things up for Cole Beasley in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field.
Hurns is a lot to handle out of the slot. His route running, toughness, and catching ability make him a tremendous weapon for Prescott in the middle of the field. If they can build a rapport during training camp and again, if Hurns can stay healthy, he'll be a consistent weapon in the passing game.
For the offense, Dak Prescott, and Cole Beasley to flourish, the Dallas Cowboys need Hurns to be a guy that can get open and make plays. They need someone to keep the defense from being able to double Beasley underneath.
So far, the early returns in training camp have been impressive and Hurns has the look of a guy who could lead the team in receiving in 2018. For both Gregory and Hurns, however, staying on the field is a huge factor.
Who is your X-Factor on offense and defense heading into the 2018 season?