Dallas Cowboys: Size Won’t Limit Randy Gregory in 2015


The Dallas Cowboys’ pass-rushing rookie, Randy Gregory, may be an undersized DE, but his numbers and his camp performance indicate he can be an immediate impact player for the Cowboys in 2015.

The Dallas Cowboys feel they struck gold when they selected DE Randy Gregory with their 60th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory, regarded as a top-10 pick, fell in the draft after character concerns and failed drug tests (yes, that’s plural) made him more “risk” than “reward” for most teams.

But alas, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t most teams, and they didn’t hesitate scooping up the high risk/high reward player from Nebraska. Now in the early stages of training camp (aka: Cowboys Camp), the buzz is really starting to pick up on the young pass-rusher.

The buzz is hardly unwarranted either. Gregory is learning from some of the best: Rod Marinelli, Greg Hardy, Jeremy Mincey, Leon Lett, and Charles Haley have all worked with the young edge rusher in camp.

Beyond Randy Gregory’s early flashes in Cowboys Camp, there are reasons to feel optimistic that Gregory’s game will translate to the NFL. Looking back at some of the details of his college production is a great place to start…

Randy Gregory reported to training camp at roughly 250lbs, which appears to be slightly more than his playing days at Nebraska. Some of the concern surrounding Gregory’s game has been his lean build and how it will fare at the next level.

The concern is warranted since undersized linemen are less likely to hold up over the duration of a game. Often times, they disappear in the 4th quarter, when offensive linemen start hitting their stride. But tracking Gregory’s college snap production, Gregory appears to actually do his best work in the 4th quarter of games.

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According to College Football Focus (subscription required), Gregory has been the most productive in the game’s final stanza. CFF tracks, grades, and maintains, advanced statistics on the college level. Last season, Randy Gregory rushed the passer 76 times in the fourth quarter.  Of those 76, he made 15 impact plays (hurries, hits, and sacks). That’s nearly 20% of the passing plays.

Of course, not all passing plays are created equal, since down and distance matter quite a bit to qualify any advanced statistic. So CFF also compiled data to see how impactful Gregory was based on down and distance. What is noteworthy of their findings is that on the 73 qualifying 3rd and long situations, Randy Gregory impacted the passer 19 times. That’s over 26% of those plays that he either hurried, hit, or sacked the opposing passer.

It’s true, Randy Gregory’s pass-rush moves leave something to be desired, but he’s far from a one-dimensional player. At Nebraska, Randy Gregory was nearly as productive using inside moves as he was turning the corner on the outside. That is especially surprising considering how light he played most of last season.

Much like DeMarcus Lawrence, it’s highly unlikely Gregory will ever become a “power player” or “bull-rusher”, but he’s not a finesse player either. Gregory, like Lawrence, will need to work on developing an arsenal of pass rush moves both to the inside and to the outside.

Lawrence put in the work, built up mass, and appears on the cusp of breaking out. Randy Gregory may not be too far behind.

Randy Gregory will be an interesting chess piece for the Dallas Cowboys’ Rod Marinelli in 2015. Slated to be the primary pass-rusher at RDE in the nickel defense, Gregory will get plenty of 3rd down opportunities. The deep rotation the Cowboys are expected to have will go a long ways in keeping him fresh, but as Gregory has proven before, he only gets better down the stretch.

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Next: DeMarcus Lawrence Primed for Breakout