(Editor's Note: Dan Turner, a journalist from England, has come across the pond for the second straight training camp, to get a closer look at America's Team. Throughout camp, Dan (@dtsturner) will provide some insight on several rookies, continuing today with second-round pick Randy Gregory.)
OXNARD, Calif. – There is a certain aura around Randy Gregory. From the coaches, his teammates, the media, and even the man himself, there is a feeling that this young man is going to be something special. It isn't the vociferous uproar that one might expect from a potential stud pass rusher, as much as quiet confidence throughout the Cowboys organization.
The 'issues' which made Gregory, a probable top-five pick, fall to the 60th overall pick have shown themselves to be moot so far. His failed drug test at the NFL Combine now seems to be a distant memory for everyone here. In terms of being undersized, he told me that "I wanted to put on weight, and I have." The fact that he is also holding up against NFL offensive tackles renders that 'issue' virtually negligible. The final issue was his get-off, but throughout camp, he has consistently been one of the quickest defensive linemen off the ball.
Gregory's biggest issue so far in training camp hasn't been one of his own making, it's instead a name, Tyron Smith. Smith has been too quick to stop his speed rush, too strong to stop his power, and too smart to block counter moves. This is making Gregory better though, as he's started to use his most underrated attribute, his brain. There is no one who understands Randy Gregory's game more than Randy Gregory. While he was still struggling to beat Smith, he at least wasn't losing as obviously as he did at the start of camp.
With Smith missing some time recently though, Gregory's ability has been fully unleashed against the backup offensive tackles, as well as preseason (where he already has two sacks in two games), and the practices against the Rams. He tends to win with either his speed, or his hands. His speed gives him a wicked counter move to win on the inside as well. He can also win with power, despite the weight disadvantage he has compared to the blockers he faces.
Gregory will form part of the rotation at the right defensive end spot this year, along with Jeremy Mincey and Greg Hardy. With the ability of the others to reduce inside to defensive tackle, he will still see significant time in nickel situations. That should make his transition a little bit easier, as it will allow him to pin his ears back and get to the backfield. Of all the rookies on the Cowboys roster, Gregory might have the most impact of any this year.
Here is the rest of the interview with Gregory:
On his most memorable moment so far:
"It's probably coming out here and seeing the fans. It's no different than minicamp and OTAs other than the fact we're wearing pads, but the biggest thing is the amount of fans who come out here and support us. Obviously, in college, we get a chance to go out and practice here and there, but being out here, every day there are fans here, and more and more come each day, and come to watch you practice and do your thing."
On whether he is still adding weight at training camp:
"Yeah definitely. I'm levelling off a little bit now, but I'm still putting on weight and not losing weight. I didn't want to lose weight. I wanted to put on weight throughout camp and I have. The hardest thing I've ever had to do in football was maintain weight and I'm doing a good job of that right now."
On learning from Leon Lett and Rod Marinelli:
"Well with Leon, he's been the same position as we have and played on some great teams with great players. He himself was a great player, so just like Charles Haley, any chance you get to sit and talk to them, and get feedback from them is good. Rod Marinelli is probably the greatest defensive mind that I've ever been around, and one of the guys I've always looked up to when you talk about defensive line coaches and defensive coaches period. I love playing with these guys and I love being around them. They always have something good to say."
On what facet of his game he's working on most:
"In between my moves, the main thing is staying low. A lot of times, I tip off (offensive) tackles when I make a counter move. When I spin, or go inside, or whatever it is, I think I tend to rise up a little bit, and I'm pretty tall, so I definitely want to work on my pad level. My hand placement, hand quickness, things like that, it's a work in progress, but I think I'm doing a pretty good job so far."