FRISCO, Texas – Randy Gregory is rediscovering his 'A-game' as a pass rusher.
How did he grade out on 10 defensive snaps against the Cincinnati Bengals last Saturday?
"(Defensive coordinator Rod) Marinelli gave it a C-minus," Gregory said with a smile. "He grades pretty hard."
Truth is, Marinelli and the Cowboys are pleased with Gregory's progress. He's been back with the team just under a month since the NFL lifted his year-long suspension just before the start of training camp.
There's a lot of work and improvement ahead. Gregory didn't put the pads on until Aug. 11, two days after the Cowboys' preseason opener. He's had only five full practices so far.
"He just needs to keep playing football," head coach Jason Garrett said. "He needs to put his hand on the ground, play run defense, rush the quarterback and do it again and again and again and start to recapture some of the reps that he's missed over the last year and a half."
Gregory spent the entire 2017 season on suspension, but he also sat out 14 games in 2016. That means in the last two calendar years he's appeared in two games.
Yet, rushing the passer does seem like natural motion for the 25-year-old defensive end. He might have gotten a sack against the Bengals if not for a penalty.
"I think with more reps I'll be able to show more," he said. "But I'm never really satisfied with my play. There's some things I can do differently with my hand usage, but the main thing that Marinelli preaches about is get-off and I think I got the ball pretty well."
Asked about Gregory's "C-minus" grade, Marinelli said it's a "solid" start to game action again.
"His strength and his explosion really looks good," Marinelli said. "Now it's just keep grinding away with him now."
The Cowboys' staff has taken a big-picture approach with Gregory, first acclimating him to football movements again, then slowly ramping up his practice reps.
He might be in line for more than 10 snaps in this Sunday's preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys have given him some first-team reps at right defensive end in practice this week, with Tyrone Crawford moving inside to tackle.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has said he believes Gregory can be ready to make a contribution by the Sept. 9 regular-season opener at Carolina. Each day until then is another building block.
"That's already been in my mind from Day One. I'm pretty confident that'll be the scenario," Gregory said. "I just have to continue doing what I've been doing. That's up to the coaches as far as how much I play, when I play and where I play on the line, things like that.
"But I think as long as I keep on the schedule I'm on, on and off the field, then I think I'll be all right."