How did Randy Gregory’s return go for the Dallas Cowboys?

Randy Gregory, Dallas Cowboys Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Gregory, Dallas Cowboys Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

In a blink and you might miss it appearance, edge rusher Randy Gregory returned to the field for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.

Randy Gregory finally made his long-awaited return to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon against the rival Washington Football Team. The edge rusher saw minimal playing time in his first game action in well over a year, but the Cowboys and their fans have to be happy to have him back on the field.

Gregory didn’t make a huge impact on the field Sunday. He ended up playing just six snaps and didn’t record a tackle. However, personally and professionally, it’s hard to not be happy that he’s returned to game action.

Gregory has long been an uber-talented pass rusher whose off the field issues have caused him to miss significant time throughout his career. He was seen by many as one of the top defenders in the 2015 NFL Draft coming out of Nebraska, but substance abuse issues caused him to freefall to the Cowboys in the second round.

Throughout his tenure in Dallas, Gregory has flashed the ability that made him such an intriguing prospect back in college. However, more often than not he’s been sidelined by suspensions that have kept him away from the team. Since he was drafted in 2015 Gregory has played 29 games, starting just one.

Prior to Sunday afternoon, the last game that Gregory played in was on January 12, 2019, when the Cowboys played the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the 2018-2019 playoffs. During that 2018 season, he played in 14 games, the most of his career, and notched six sacks on the year.

The talent is clearly there, so it’s easy to see why the Cowboys have stuck by Gregory through all his ups and downs. In September the NFL conditionally reinstated him from his most recent indefinite suspension, though the league said he couldn’t practice until October fifth or appear in a game until week seven.

So how did Randy Gregory’s return go? Well if you blinked you may have missed it. Gregory played just six snaps on Sunday afternoon. Breaking down his snaps show that he was able to rush the passer just once, with the other five snaps coming against the run. He did not contribute on special teams or make a particularly large impact in his immediate return.

All of this begs a few questions. If the Cowboys wanted to bring Gregory along slowly, why not sit him this week to help him get ready to play more snaps the following week against the Philadelphia Eagles? Do the six snaps that Gregory played on Sunday really help him or in turn help the defense? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to make someone else active, perhaps someone who would have also contributed on special teams?

Those are all questions well worth asking. The fact that the Cowboys made edge rusher Bradlee Anae inactive on Sunday only makes the move to have Gregory be active all the more confusing. In addition to flashing in his very limited playing time. Anae has largely played special teams this season and helps Dallas by contributing to multiple facets of the game.

Gregory’s minimal snap count while the defense and special teams clearly need all the help they can get is a bit of a questionable call by head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. In a better season, this is a move that likely comes and goes with less conversation. However, during a loss to a division rival where the Cowboys needed as much of a jolt as possible, it was a bit perplexing.

There is little doubt that having a Randy Gregory back could be great news for the Cowboys. He’s always had that talent to be a force in the NFL, his issue has been just staying on the field. It’s great to see Gregory back and sober, and it’s hard to not root for him.

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Randy Gregory’s return to the field is a great story, it’s fantastic for him both as a player and a person to be able to come back and suit up for the Cowboys. Fans are surely hoping he can stay on track, earn more playing time, and make a big impact down the stretch for a Dallas Cowboys defense that desperately needs the help.