(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 2021. Today, we'll debate expectations for defensive end Randy Gregory.)
FRISCO, Texas – Randy Gregory's career with the Cowboys has been complex and rife with challenges. But the talented pass rusher has battled back from multiple NFL suspensions and put together a strong 2020 season, appearing in 10 games with 3.5 sacks.
Now, fresh off his first full offseason with the team since his 2015 rookie season, could 2021 could be a career year? Our staff writers debate expectations for the talented 28-year-old pass rusher.
6) Expectations For Randy Gregory?
Jonny Auping: I'm definitely optimistic about Gregory's 2021 season. More than anything, I'm just happy for him. He's far from a bad guy, and he's barely had any chances to show the kind of football player he is. Sure, he's made a couple mistakes, but he's always held himself accountable for those mistakes and I think the way he's continued to pursue what he knows he's capable of in the face of so many setbacks says more about his character than anything else. But I want to temper my expectations a little bit. He's really talented, but adjusting to week in and week out of the NFL season might take a slight toll at some point. I'd like to pencil in six to eight sacks on the season, but I also think he's going to transition from a status question mark to a locker room leader, and that's going to benefit the defense overall.
Kyle Youmans: Expectations for Gregory shouldn't be over-the-moon or towards the Pro Bowl caliber expectations set for DeMarcus Lawrence on the other side. The biggest thing for Gregory to accomplish this season is consistency. Each of his 3.5 sacks and seven of his 25 pressures came in just two games, Week 12 against Washington and Week 16 against Philadelphia. Tallying multiple sacks a week is not possible. He's at least shown that he can hit that mark, but constantly creating pressure has to be an addition to Gregory's game. In a full 17-game season, there's no way he shouldn't be near 45 pressures and lead to around 7 or 8 sacks total. Numbers that would make any defensive coordinator happy, but the film is really where Gregory is going to shine if all goes right.
Mickey Spagnola: To steal a Charles Dickens book title, Great Expectations. Maybe as great as when the Cowboys used a second-round pick in the 2015 draft on the Nebraska defensive end, his career over the next six years turned upside down by repeated suspensions in four of his six seasons. And that included the entire 2017 and 2019 seasons, along with the first six games of 2020. But by the end of the 2020 season Gregory was the Cowboys' most dynamic pass rusher, and rounded into shape against the run. Think about this, then. This was Gregory's first full offseason with the Cowboys since his rookie year. He seems to have his life in order, which will allow him to play at an even higher level. While he recorded 3½ sacks in the 10 games he played last year, Gregory finished third on the team with 16 QB pressures, and that at playing just 21.8 percent of the snaps. Guarantee you, health willing, Gregory will not be underused again this year.