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Dallas Cowboys Freeze Frame: Why Care About Randy Gregory?

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Introducing a new weekly feature with a look at a player that many have dismissed.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

[Ed. Note: Lots of pictures to follow, have patience on a slow connection]

Welcome to Freeze Frame. This will be a weekly edition wherein I take some candid shots of the previous week’s all-22 film for posterity.

Given that there wasn’t a meaningful game last week, however, I am taking a little liberty with a second post on Randy Gregory. Many fans dismiss his rookie season contributions as non-existent, given that he had zero sacks. But sportingcharts.com lists him as having eight hurries, and the Cowboys credit him with 16 pressures. With only taking 244 total defensive snaps, that’s a pressure every 15.25 snaps (assuming all eight of the "hurries" were also "pressures"). Not passing snaps, but total snaps. That’s pretty good.

But the film is even better. As a rookie, Randy Gregory showed a maturity and variety of pass rushing skills to go with his outstanding physical traits. As we discussed in my previous piece, his future is very much up in the air right now, but Dallas absolutely needs his help and he can be the major missing piece for this defense if he can get clean and get on board.

Bryan Broaddus said that when you scout someone you look at their performances against top opponents. I took him at his word and watched Gregory’s toughest two opponents: the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers. Against the Panthers he primarily lined up against Michael Oher and against Green Bay he played both left and right sides, lining up against David Bakthiari and Bryan Bulaga. None of those guys are All-Pro, but they have all been entrenched starters for several years. Clearly they have been good enough to make those two teams repeated playoff performers and the Panthers played in February.

They are solid NFL tackles, all.

And Randy Gregory beat them, regularly. Let’s go to the film.

I took four plays from each game as samples. Here Gregory lines up at RDE.

The left tackle moves to block Greg Hardy while the H-back comes across to help Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers show some disrespect to Gregory here as the H-back is already looking for someone else to assist.

An instant later. One push. Stewart is now two yards away with his back turned. And while RB against DE is a mismatch, let’s remember that this is no scat back here, but a big powerful man, and Gregory tosses him aside like a hamburger wrapper. And then...

The moment of release. Stewart only has time to turn and follow as Gregory buries himself in Cam Newton’s chest from a good five yards away. The Panthers would not leave a RB on Gregory the rest of the game. This is immense explosiveness and it shows up all through Gregory’s work.

Next we see Randy as the RDE in a three man front. Both safeties and both linebackers are up at the line. The Panthers have two TEs (one is actually Stewart, on the offensive right).

Everyone bails and the Cowboys are rushing three. The TE on Gregory’s side stays in to block and the guard goes to help. Three guys on Gregory. Surely the undersized DE is physically over matched here, right?

Yet with THREE NFL players trying to stop him, look how far Randy gets three seconds after the snap as the ball comes out. If Cam Newton has to pull this throw down for any reason, DeMarcus Lawrence has beaten the RT and is closing for the kill. Gregory’s push leaves Newton no escape to his side.

This play shows some nice work by the whole line. Dallas is in base defense here.

Once again, the TE stays in to chip Gregory before releasing. Tyrone Crawford takes an inside rush and gets doubled by the center. Lawrence is hand-fighting the RT.

Crawford has walked his men right back into Cam’s lap and is trying to reach through and grab Cam (presumably his good arm). Lawrence has beaten his man again and is heading fast for Newton. Why is Gregory not part of the party here? Notice Oher’s right arm. Gregory has beaten him and he’s grabbing on. He was penalized for holding on this play (though the official record says Trai Turner).

Dallas is in a prevent style defense for this play. Three pass rushers and 8 men deep.

Gregory heads straight up the field. Meanwhile Crawford is in the midst of one of the sweetest swims you’ll ever see. Gregory is moving so quickly the left guard can only stand and watch.

Crawford’s swim literally sends the center to the ground. Gregory, meanwhile is leaning into Michael Oher with a vengeance. The left guard is trying to get back and help somehow.

But Gregory gets by the two of them, leaving Oher no choice but to grab on with both hands from behind. While Crawford, running free, would get credit for the sack, Gregory was right there with him, as you can see in the title picture.

On to Green Bay.

Gregory is at RDE, lined up against David Bakthiari. Green Bay has watched the Panthers tape. There will be no RB 1-on-1 with Gregory.

This is a quick throw. This is just over one second after snap and Aaron Rodgers has already started his forward motion. But look at Gregory’s position leaning into Bakthiari...

Setting him up for a vicious spin move. Notice that from previous frame to now, an Aaron Rodgers 50+ mph football is still in the cropped picture. That’s how fast Randy’s spin was.

Gregory at LDE this time against Bryan Bulaga. Bulaga is moving to cut off Gregory’s outside speed advantage as Gregory has planted his right foot to move outside.

But with this little shove and a concept called "one arm is longer", along with some truly monstrous strength, Gregory has completely cleared his path to Rodgers once again.

And once again, Gregory is defeated by a quick throw, but he gets hands on the QB this time.

Gregory back on the right, against Bakthiari.

Gregory has started to move in, but is planting to head back outside.

Gregory’s lateral agility has completely wasted Bakthiari, who is in danger of simply falling over. But what I also want to point out is the detail of the hand-fighting. Bakthiari can’t even cheat and grab on here, as Gregory has effectively taken his hands out of the equation. It’s honestly pretty shocking to see a rookie defeat a veteran tackle this badly.

Gregory running free and clear flushes Rodgers from the pocket. Astute viewers will note #71, Josh Sitton, running out to be the lone lead blocker on a screen, but Gregory’s penetration was emphatically not part of the plan. Had any of the other linemen penetrated like a screen pass usually allows, Rodgers would’ve been in deep trouble as Gregory is flushing him right into them.

And one final play against Bulaga.

Here they engage in a classic locking of horns. Normally when it gets to this phase with a veteran tackle, it’s pretty much over. The massive strength and weight advantage a tackle typically brings to this match up means it’s a done deal. But note that Gregory is keeping Bulaga at arm’s length.

By holding off Bulaga while continuing to move, Gregory has manufactured an advantage where many, especially younger, players find themselves stalemated. Bulaga is forced to grab on and is flagged for holding.

I just had to include this great shot of the referee leaning around Rodgers to make sure of what he’s seeing. It’s very clear his attention is focused on the embattled right tackle.

Randy Gregory is absolutely the missing pass rush piece this team needs so badly. As a rookie he showed tremendous speed, strength, leverage and length, lateral agility, and used a variety of well-developed pass rush moves successfully against quality NFL tackles. He is the Real Deal and from that perspective was an outstanding pick. Of course, his troubles were well-known and documented and you could argue that makes him a bad pick. But those of you who wanted something done about the pass rush, this was and should be your guy. He’s a stud in the making, if he can get back to the process.