Head coach Mike McCarthy couldn’t have envisioned a more disappointing start in his first season with the Dallas Cowboys. With a 2-4 record, there are multiple places to point fingers. The offense leads the league in turnovers. Not to be outdone in ineptitude, the defense is struggling to stop anyone and ranks dead last in points allowed per game. This Sunday, however, the Cowboys defense will get a much-needed boost with the return of defensive end Randy Gregory who hasn’t played in two years.
Randy Gregory effective in his limited time
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Randy Gregory in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, he’s played in just 28 games over the last five seasons, including one start.
Gregory impressed early on during the preseason of his rookie year, recording three sacks in three games. In the season opener, he managed to get three quarterback pressures in just 18 plays. Then, in the fourth quarter, he suffered a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss the next four games. He finished his rookie season with 11 tackles.
After the 2016 season, in which he recorded nine tackles and one sack, Randy Gregory played his best in 2018, showing why the Cowboys drafted him. That season he played in 14 games where he recorded two forced fumbles, recovered a fumble, and had six sacks.
Randy Gregory struggles with substance abuse issues
Randy Gregory has been his own worst enemy throughout his career. His effectiveness on the field has been limited because of his actions off of it. In 2016, he missed the first four games of the season because the NFL suspended him for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Several months later, Gregory failed a second drug test and checked into a treatment facility. He failed several more tests and was suspended for the 2017 season.
After his best year in 2018, the NFL indefinitely suspended Randy Gregory in February 2019 once again for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Despite the suspension, the Cowboys remained hopeful in the defensive end’s eventual return and extended his contract through the 2020 season.
Gregory to return this weekend
In March 2020, Randy Gregory filed for reinstatement with the NFL. The league conditionally reinstated him in September. He began practicing with the Dallas Cowboys on October 7. Team owner Jerry Jones recently said he has high expectations with Gregory’s return.
“Randy Gregory is an impact player. Always has been, and when he’s been on the field for us, he’s impactful,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said Gregory’s return is still contingent on how well practice goes this week, but he is encouraged based on what he saw last week.
“Randy’s going to have the opportunity to prepare to play this week,” McCarthy said. “So we’ll see how the week of preparation goes but I thought he had an excellent week last week (of practice).”
Cowboys fans have anticipated Randy Gregory’s return to the lineup for years. Now it appears it’s about to happen. And as those fans can also attest, with the current state of the Dallas defense, it couldn’t happen at a better time.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.