IRVING, Texas – At the very least, give credit to Randy Gregory for not shying away from the obvious.
It's been roughly six weeks since the rookie pass rusher returned from his ankle sprain, and every week he's fielded questions about whether he can see his breakout performance on the horizon.
Faced with that question once again on Thursday, the rookie offered a blunt assessment.
"I don't know," he said. "We've been saying this every week now since I've been back, and I'm just trying to play my role, I'm trying to do as much as I can with the amount of playing time I'm getting."
It's been a frustrating season for the No. 60 overall pick to this point in the season. Gregory offered a tantalizing glimpse of his potential during training camp, piling up three sacks in three preseason games during August.
After spraining his ankle in the preseason opener, though, things have gotten off track. He missed five games due to the injury, returning after the Week 6 bye. In seven games since then, he has just seven tackles and no sacks.
Gregory acknowledged that the learning curve has been frustrating to deal with.
"It is – especially throughout the week, practicing throughout the week and then you get there on Sunday and you get disappointed because you're not doing as much as you thought you were going to do," he said.
As hard as he might be on himself, the rookie has received plenty of praise from those watching him develop. Defensive coordinator Rod Marienlli has repeatedly stated that he's impressed by Gregory's practice habits. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said his development has been noticeable as he continues to get reps – both in games and practices.
"I think he's had a good couple of weeks. I think he's gotten better," Garrett said. "He got off to a good start for us and the injury certainly hurt him early on. And you just have to battle back from that. Part of that is just maturity, getting your mind right, getting your body right, getting your emotions right to play your best football. And I think he's done a good job of that the last couple of weeks."
There are still four games to play, so Gregory has plenty of opportunity left to make an impact. DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best game of the season on Monday night against Washington, posting two sacks in the 19-16 win.
Gregory said he thinks his time is coming, as well. It's just a matter of being patient.
"I think I took a couple strides in the right direction the last couple weeks, but I've just got to have a breakout game," he said. "I feel like it's coming, I just don't know when it's going to come."