The Dallas Cowboys have activated defensive end Randy Gregory, and he’ll see his first action of the 2016 season Monday night against the Detroit Lions.
Gregory was suspended for the first 14 games of the season for multiple violations of the league’s policy on substance abuse.
While Gregory was allowed to participate in strength and conditioning work and defensive meetings during his suspension, he was finally permitted to return to practice after the Cowboys’ Week 14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said he was impressed with Gregory’s effort and performance.
“He’s looked good. I mean, he’s so explosive off the ball. That’s all the same. He’s thicker. He’s bigger. He’s gained weight,” Marinelli said, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.
Gregory is up from 230 pounds to 250, according to ESPN’s Ed Werder, and he’s just as explosive as he was before. His teammates have also been impressed with him since his return to practice.
“Oh, man, he’s been looking real good,” defensive end Tyrone Crawford said, according to the Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He’s looking real fast and definitely excited to get him out there against a team (Detroit) that I feel he’ll actually rush good against. I’m excited, man. The young bull’s back.”
Gregory’s return couldn’t come at a better time, with the playoffs on the horizon and Dallas missing DeMarcus Lawrence and Crawford due to injury. Marinelli said the team will have to monitor Gregory’s snaps against the Lions, because regardless of the shape he’s in, actually hitting opposing players is a very different story.
“Your body is just not used to it, the hitting,” Marinelli said.
The Cowboys selected Gregory in the second round of the 2015 NFL draft, and his career has been a disappointment so far relative to his draft status. In his rookie season, Gregory played in 12 games and posted 11 tackles and no sacks.
Gregory is facing a yearlong suspension for substance abuse, but has appealed the suspension. The appeal is unlikely to be heard until sometime in January at the earliest, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, which means Gregory should be available for the playoffs.
If Gregory looks as good on the field of play as he has during practice, he should provide a boost to a Cowboys defense that needs all the help it can get, especially in the postseason.
Dallas is tied for 21st in the league for sacks this season with 21. In addition to Gregory, the Cowboys defensive line was without Lawrence over a four-game period as he served a suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. If the Cowboys, with Gregory, can bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks in the playoffs, it would help mask some other deficiencies on a defense that is ranked No. 28 in the league for passing yards allowed per game.
The Cowboys face the Lions on Monday Night Football, and they’ll take on the Eagles in Philadelphia in Week 17. These last two games of the regular season provide an opportunity for Gregory to settle in before the Cowboys roll into the postseason.