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Will the Dallas Cowboys “Get Lucky” at Defensive End?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Will the Dallas Cowboys "Get Lucky" at Defensive End?

The never-ending quest for a pass rusher in Dallas has calmed down since DeMarcus Lawrence had a break-out season in 2017. Now, the Cowboys have seemingly found their "War Daddy" to get after quarterbacks week after week on the field.

Playing under the franchise tag, the long-term future at defensive end is still uncertain for the Cowboys. Will they give Lawrence an arguably deserved extension? Or will they wait to see him prove that he isn't what many are afraid he is... a one-year wonder.

Whatever the case may be, pass rusher is one of those positions that always concern NFL teams and fans around the world. Some name the position one of the most important in the sport, and rightfully so. For Dallas, retaining Lawrence for at least another season was a huge offseason victory.

Pair that uncertainty about the long term future with the fact that Lawrence's best play came when playing as the left defensive end, and you still have a team that could use a pass rusher on the right side.

Without a doubt, the team will be looking for one in the Draft, even though it may not be early.

However, the Dallas Cowboys may already have their right defensive end of the future in the house. They of course would have to get lucky, but Randy Gregory is reportedly applying for reinstatement.

Now, the team can't depend on Gregory being there for next season and should continue to build their team without him as part of the plan, but Gregory could very well end up being a starter down the road if he's reinstated.

Despite his limited availability at the start of his career, the talent is clearly there. As Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie wrote yesterday, the Cowboys are in a no-lose scenario with him.

Sean's Scout: Defense Comes Alive In Loss At LA Rams 2

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton (Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Another player who we may be forgetting about is actually last year's first round pick. Many were disappointed when Dallas drafted Taco Charlton in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Taco flashed potential towards the end of the season, giving us hope that he was indeed going to be a very good player for the team.

Although Charlton's rookie season was a bit disappointing for a first-round pick, it's still too early to give up on him. We'll see how he progresses and hopefully he ends up being this team's RDE.

In my pre-free agency mock draft, with a board wiped clean for Dallas, I mocked an EDGE rusher for the Cowboys at 19. I know this might not be what the front office will be looking for in the first round, but one has to wonder if someone like Harold Landry falls to them, would they consider taking him?

Landry is a very talented player who could do great things for this defensive line. Imagine that front. It could be what this team needs to take the defense to another level.

For now, we know the Cowboys are set at LDE with DeMarcus Lawrence, who is becoming one of the best rushers in the league. Will they get lucky at RDE with any of these guys? Hopefully, yes.

Tell me what you think about "Will the Dallas Cowboys “Get Lucky” at Defensive End?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

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6 Comments
  • EverybodyTalks

    Hope the best for Randy, both on and off the field.

  • David L Lamon

    Drugs have his number and once bitten as bad as he was there isn’t a 25% chance of him staying clean so go about the business of finding a good DE because he won’t be dependable. I too, hope the best for the young man no matter what he decides to do.

    • Tim Hargrave

      What r u talking about why don’t u find out more information about him before u open ur mouth and start talking sh!+ about this kid Demarcus Lawrence he hasn’t fail a drug test in over a year and he has to take them all the time

  • Chuck Wright

    Gregory is a Unicorn until proven otherwise. . . ..Taco had a pretty typical End of the 1st/2nd round edge 1st season. Like WR, they seldom produce in year 1. Fingers crossed on D Law, another guy who has yet to play 16 games. Frankly I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE Indy making a big offer for Irving and us scoring their high 2nd round pick.

  • Alex

    IF Gregory was reinstated and cleared to play and became the teams RDE in training camp, could Dallas move Taco inside to play as a DT?

  • Charles

    Don’t sleep on Tapper. I think he could be a beast at RDE if he can stay healthy.

Star Blog

Sean’s Scout: Measuring Randy Gregory’s Impact on Cowboys Defense

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Measuring Randy Gregory's Potential Impact on Cowboys Defense

The Dallas Cowboys report to training camp next week, and for the first time in a long time there may be more excitement for their defense compared to a largely reshuffled offense. This hype for Rod Marinelli's defense, bolstered by the addition of Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, was elevated earlier in the week when the Cowboys learned Defensive End Randy Gregory would be reinstated.

Gregory's presence as a potential starting right defensive end is an uplifting one for the Cowboys as they depart for Oxnard. Above all else, this is a rare turn of fortunes for a player the NFL can now tote as a success story.

Once Gregory's focus shifts towards taking hold of that starting DE position for good and giving the Cowboys a pass rush of him and DeMarcus Lawrence off the edge, his impact could change the entire complexion of this defense.

After watching Gregory's last game for Dallas, a week 16 win in Philadelphia back in 2016, here is what I saw from the Cowboys "Christmas in July" addition to their defensive line.

Gregory3

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This first clip is probably Gregory's most memorable play through three seasons with the Cowboys. Two teams going in opposite directions since this game, the Cowboys have cycled through their rotation of pass rushers to play the weak side -- with nobody coming close to the athleticism and bend Gregory displays here.

Already planning on attacking the offensive tackle to the outside with his long arm approach, Gregory regains his balance avoiding the low block to get even with Carson Wentz and finish the play. This type of relentlessness is a signature of the Cowboys defense under Marinelli, now fielding a deep group of defensive ends around Gregory and Lawrence.

Gregory1

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Just how much Gregory comes off the field for the likes of Tyrone Crawford, rookie Dorance Armstrong, Charles Tapper, or Taco Charlton will be determined by his ability to hold up against the run. This was a strength for Gregory against the Eagles, as his cornering ability helped him chase down plays all over the field.

It's hard to understate just how important Gregory's speed and range from this RDE spot could mean to the Cowboys, especially given their changes at linebacker for the 2018 season.

This is a team that's also added plenty of range to the second level of their defense with rookie Leighton Vander Esch and another year of Jaylon Smith.

These linebacker's ability to shoot gaps and be disruptive in the backfield will be aided by the depth Gregory is capable of gaining with ease against left tackles.

Gregory2

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Gregory does have a tendency to play upright at times and offer a larger blocking area than needed. As you see above, this can help him as an all-around player, as chasing down the run to the outside comes easy for him.

The Cowboys won't be at full strength at defensive tackle to start the season, with David Irving suspended for the first four games again. Maliek Collins is also coming back from another broken foot, as him and Gregory will be important to watch progress through training camp.

The overall potential for a Cowboys defensive line featuring all three of these players, and the rotational pieces behind them, is incredibly high for a team just looking to get back to their roots this season.

For the Cowboys in 2018, this means running the ball effectively, limiting turnovers on offense, and protecting the lead on defense. Randy Gregory significantly helps the Cowboys do the latter here, improving an already fearsome pass rush in ways that few players are capable of.

This is ultimately why the first-round talent fell to the second round for the Cowboys, who took the risk on Gregory and are now on the long path back towards seeing this gamble pay off, something a very thankful Gregory must see through on the field.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Measuring Randy Gregory’s Impact on Cowboys Defense" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Star Blog

Why Patience Is Key In Evaluating Randy Gregory

Kevin Brady

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Will the Dallas Cowboys "Get Lucky" at Defensive End?

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.



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Star Blog

How Should The Cowboys, And The NFL, Value RBs?

Kevin Brady

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Will Cowboys' Offense Improve With Ezekiel Elliott's Return?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.

Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.

Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.

With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?

To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.

Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.

Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.

In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.

Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?

Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.

The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.

Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.

If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?

We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.

But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.

Once again, at least it is for now.



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