Everybody knows the chances the Cowboys were willing to take the last offseason in order to secure a better pass rushing unit. What they got for their efforts was little return. They went out and signed a premier pass rusher in Greg Hardy, only to deal with a ton of backlash but not much production. They drafted a fallen star in Randy Gregory after multiple issues with failed marijuana tests including one at the 2015 Combine. All of this has been one unfortunate event after the other.
Of course, it certainly didn't help that the Cowboys only had 31 sacks last year which was only three more than the previously dreadful 28 sacks. This is a team who's struggled to bring down the quarterback and hasn't had a double-digit sack artist since Jason Hatcher in 2013. They haven't cracked the top ten in pass rush since 2011, it's a team with a big problem.
Greg Hardy, Jeremy Mincey, Nick Hayden and Jack Crawford could all be gone in a few weeks time depending on free agency. That leaves their sack leader from last year DeMarcus Lawrence, Ryan Russell, David Irving and Tyrone Crawford as the remaining group. Lawrence and Crawford have both had offseason surgeries but should be available for training camp. This Cowboys' team doesn't even have enough guys to get them to a game on Sunday at this point.
Now, add that to the fact that Randy Gregory will miss the first four games of his second season due to another failed marijuana test and we have a potential disaster brewing. It's precisely why the Cowboys need to take a page out of their own book from 2005 and rebuild this defensive line. It doesn't necessarily mean they have to draft a first-round defensive end as statistics have shown that you can't expect much from a rookie pass rusher. This draft hasn't got too many folks all that impressed in the pass rushing department anyhow. However, they could do themselves a favor and take advantage of a deep defensive tackles class.
The Cowboys will need to operate under the assumption that Randy Gregory isn't in their plans this season. Of course, he may have learned his lesson, but how can he be trusted? Despite what we feel about the penalties for marijuana in football, they don't seem to be changing anytime soon. Gregory is one misstep away from a ten game ban and that's practically a season. At this point, the Cowboys have to look via free agency and the draft to build out their roster with Gregory as a wildcard. Sure, he can rush the passer and could be a great player for them, but he means nothing right now.
It's a shame too because it was last draft season that I predicted that Gregory was going to take a tumble. In that piece, I was talking about him falling to 27, I had no idea his drop was going to be a lot further than that:
He claimed that the failed test stems from marijuana he smoked in December, he says he's since been clean and that the THC levels were still very active from his previous usage. He also stated that he's got a great team around him including his agent Deryk Gilmore and former Jets and Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards, who has agreed to mentor Gregory. Gilmore has also gone public with a platform that he will present to the team that drafts Gregory. It is said to be a detailed plan-of-action that will give team's confidence in selecting Randy.
It is unknown what this failed test will do for his draft status, but 26 teams have expressed their concerns to Gregory. He maintains that he doesn't want this to affect his career in the NFL but will enter the league already in the first stage of it abuse program.
Gregory added his own quotes too when the media swarmed him about his failed test at the Combine:
"It was a shot to the gut." said Gregory after getting the news via phone from his father. "I blame myself and I know it sounds cliche but I really have nobody else I can blame for this but myself."
"Am I worried? Yeah, I'm worried," he said. "At the same time, I'm confident. I know I'm going to be all right in the end."
"This incident right now is a step toward ending my career. The last thing I want to do is fail another drug test and be out of the league. I want it on the record. I want people to understand I know I messed up. I'm owning up to it. I realize it. But at the same time, I'm taking the right steps to get better and to fix it."
Think about that, he already acknowledged that he made a big mistake and that it scared him but now he's failed another one and, this time, he failed his employer. Of course, I'm not suggesting that the Cowboys cut Randy Gregory so early into his career but this is extremely unfortunate. Who knows what role he was going to play in 2016, and he certainly has time to fix his issues, but trusting him right now can't happen.
Now, it's only a massive hope that the Cowboys don't overdraft a pass rusher because they need one so badly. We know they don't want to spend much in free agency as Stephen Jones refuses to pay good players like they are great players. I tend to agree with his statement but the pass rush needs a serious facelift. In such a quarterback-driven league, the Broncos showed the blueprint for winning championships.
There are lots of fans (myself included) that would be dancing on the table for Jalen Ramsey. However, if they can't find a way to get to the opposing quarterback, is it going to matter who's playing in the secondary? It's often called the chicken-or-the-egg theory but a good pass rush gets the defense off the field. Right now, the Cowboys pass rush is an incomplete project and it's on the minds of everyone in the facilities at Valley Ranch. Frankly, it's on the minds of everyone in the fanbase as well.