The Cowboys were fully aware of the risks involved when they drafted prolific edge rusher Randy Gregory in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
They were also well aware of the potential rewards too.
Gregory has spent much of his NFL career away from the Dallas Cowboys, dealing with suspension after suspension and rarely playing actual football. Now, Randy Gregory has gained reinstatement into the league, and all signs point to positivity around his future.
As expected, both the Cowboys and their fan base are excited about the return of Gregory to the roster. And, of course, they should be. Gregory possesses all the traits necessary to be a top tier pass rusher in the NFL, even if we haven’t seen it on full display thus far.
At his best Gregory is the prototypical RDE that Cowboys Nation has been yearning for. But it’s probably unfair for him to reach that potential as early as this season. Pass rushers coming off suspensions, particularly lengthy suspensions, are rarely able to find their way quickly after returning.
And if you want proof of this, you only have to look across the way at DeMarcus Lawrence. After a strong 8 sack 2015 season, Lawrence was suspended the first four games of 2016. Once he returned, Lawrence battled injuries all season and only appeared in 9 games. Over those 9 games Lawrence tallied just 1 sack and made a minimal impact.
The next season, though? DeMarcus Lawrence was back to playing fully healthy and engaged, en route to a team leading 14.5 sacks and the best overall season of his career.
Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence are different players, and this is obviously a different situation, but the need for patience remains the same. To expect Gregory to be a dominant pass rusher in 2018 is more-than-lofty, as he deserves time to work back into playing shape and perfect his craft off the edge.
Unlike Lawrence, Gregory will have a full offseason and 16 game slate ahead of him. Plus, we haven’t heard of any lingering injuries affecting Gregory going forward.
So while we may need to temper expectations at least a little bit, I still expect Randy Gregory to become the RDE we all hoped he could be with time.