(Editor's Note: Over the next month, the staff of DallasCowboys.com is looking to answer the 20 biggest questions facing the team heading into the 2022 season. Today, the staff writers debate who steps up at defensive end now that former starter Randy Gregory has signed with the Denver Broncos.)
12) Who Replaces Randy Gregory's Production?
Mickey Spagnola: It's not so much replacing Randy Gregory's sacks as it is replacing his 30 QB pressures and the constant potential threat to opposing offenses must account for off the edge. This should be a group effort, at least from the start. A combination of a healthy DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong and even Tarell Basham should pose pressure threats. But don't fall asleep on second-round draft choice Sam Williams. The rookie DE from Ole Miss has sneaky quickness off the line and functional strength as a designated pass rusher. And remember, Micah Parsons led the team not only with 13 sacks in 2021 but also with 42 pressures, the majority of both coming from the linebacker position. The Cowboys just need DeMarcus Lawrence to play more than the seven games and 23.6 percent of the snaps he did last year after suffering the fifth metatarsal fracture in the opener.
Kyle Youmans: Let's start with the bad news. Gregory's production came from more than just what showed up on the stat sheet. Sure, he only tallied six sacks, but 43 total pressures and an 84.4 pass rush grade (according to PFF) will both be tough to replicate. The good news is, not one single player has to carry all that weight. I'm enthusiastic that the combination of Dante Fowler Jr., Dorance Armstrong, and rookie Sam Williams can all create a similar production at different points throughout the season. More so than the complete unit of pass rushers has done in the past.
Nick Eatman: This isn't hate towards Gregory because I do think he's very talented and does things on the field that stats don't always show. But let's not forget that in his career, the best defensive coordinator he played under was Dan Quinn. And I'm gonna say the best defensive teammate he played with was Micah Parsons. So while replacing Gregory won't be the easiest thing in the world, I think it can be done. Are we not sure Gregory's breakout season in 2021 wasn't more of a result of Quinn/Parsons/Diggs, etc? We aren't sure. We won't really know that for a while. So to answer the question, I think it'll be Sam Williams, to be honest. Initially, probably a combination of Armstrong/Fowler/Basham, but eventually, Williams might have those freakish-like skills that Quinn will bring to the surface.