What's Next For D-Line: Gregory Building On 2020?

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FRISCO, Texas – As always, this is the uncertain time of the year.

Roughly one-third of NFL rosters turn over every offseason as each club looks for ways to improve its fortunes moving forward. The Cowboys are no different, as they'll face many tough decisions in the coming months.

With that in mind, we're evaluating each position on the roster and what choices face the front office in 2021. We continue our series with Part 2 of the defensive line:

Expectations for Randy Gregory?

When you think about Randy Gregory's circumstances last year, the Cowboys probably felt any production he gave them following a year-and-a-half hiatus would be a bonus in 2020.

The challenge wasn't just Gregory's extended time away from the NFL, and the Cowboys organization, since his February 2019 suspension for violating the league's Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse and the terms of his conditional reinstatement. Once Gregory got reinstated again last year, he only was granted three weeks of practice time before his season debut Oct. 25 against Washington.

Yet, despite no training camp and an expedited return to game action, Gregory emerged as arguably one of the Cowboys' three most impactful defenders by season's end.

In 10 games, Gregory ranked third in quarterback pressures (16), tied for third in sacks (3.5) and tied for second in forced fumbles (3). Pro Football Focus gave him the second-best overall defensive grade (80.5), behind only DeMarcus Lawrence (88.6), among players in the regular rotation.

Gregory is under contract for 2021, having signed a one-year extension after his September reinstatement. Even if free-agent-to-be Aldon Smith returns, it's intriguing to think about what Gregory could do with a full offseason and preseason and possibly an uptick in playing time opposite left defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Last year Gregory only played about 40% of the defensive snaps and only topped 40 snaps in two games.

If Gregory takes another step forward, it'll be great news for the Cowboys' pass rush.

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