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Cowboys News: Randy Gregory fully cleared to rejoin all team activities

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Cowboys’ Randy Gregory fully cleared and reinstated - Marc Sessler,
While Gregory’s full reinstatement was expected, the official word from the NFL allows Gregory to join the Cowboys again.

The “fully cleared” status means Gregory can participate in practices and games, which wasn’t the case under his conditional reinstatement. Rapoport was told the NFL liked the pass-rusher’s plan and clinical resources in Dallas.

”I’ve never been more proud of any individual in my life,” Gregory’s attorney, Daniel Moskowitz, said in a statement last week. “I’m very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of his family.”

Garrett: Gregory “Deserves This Opportunity” - Rob Phillips,
Head coach Jason Garrett’s thoughts on the return of Randy Gregory.

As defensive end Randy Gregory readies to return to the Cowboys this week for training camp in Oxnard, California, he has full support from his head coach.

“He’s worked very hard to get himself back into this position,” Jason Garrett said Monday at the Cowboys’ annual Coaches Clinic presented by Baylor Scott & White. “He’s been away from football, so there will be some challenges in terms of his transition back. But it’ll be good to see him. He’s a good kid and he deserves this opportunity.”

Gregory, the Cowboys’ second-round pick in 2015, was conditionally reinstated by the NFL last week after spending roughly 18 months on the suspended list for multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.

Can Randy Gregory be a defensive force for Dallas in 2018? – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
It’s easy to be skeptical about Randy Gregory. But the defensive end has some special skills that should give Cowboys fans reason to believe. Sturm goes through Gregory’s game film and tells you why optimism is warranted.

But as we look at Randy Gregory we know two things are true about that three-suspension trifecta that destroyed his 2016 and 2017:

1. He played in only two games out of a possible 33 (32 regular season bouts and a playoff game)

2. He was the best version of Randy Gregory we had ever seen in those two games.

We don’t know where this is headed. We do know, however, that if he is ready to repay the Cowboys for their patience and commitment, they have the chance to put together a defensive end pairing that allows their defense to fall into place like never before in the Marinelli era. We saw Lawrence have a tremendous year without much from his bookend partner last year. This allows offenses to slide coverage to the biggest threat and compensate that way. But two edge-rushing threats? That isolates a weak link and puts the offense in a real tough bind.

Gregory is a very talented player who the Cowboys continue to invest in long after most would have sold all shares. Will they reap a sizable reward? And does the irony of one guy returning from suspension to help you deal with yet another suspension (from Irving) perfectly summarize the Jerry Jones era?

For me, this is one of the most interesting stories in camp. I am looking forward to seeing what #94 can show us in California.

Prediction: It won’t take long for Randy Gregory to win Cowboys starting right DE spot - Michael Sisemore, Blogging The Boys
Some would caution patience with Gregory after his lengthy absence from competitive football, but not Sisemore.

Usually it takes players that have spent this much time away from the game a little while to get acclimated but rare talents such as Gregory don’t take long to show up. The last time Gregory was on the football field was Week 17 of 2016. It was only his second game being active after serving a four-game ban then a ten-game ban consecutively. He was active for a few snaps in a 42-21 win over the Lions. However, in that Week 17 game at the Eagles, Gregory was allowed to start on the right side. In the first defensive series, Gregory recorded a sack.

After missing 14 games, Gregory was able to beat one of the premier left tackles in the game, Jason Peters, to finish this play and notch his only career sack. He also left that game with the second most tackles on the day at seven, one of which was for loss. Gregory’s ability to stay low to the ground, making himself small around the edge, and then using his arm length to explode into his blocker makes him a premier pass rushing talent. He plays with excellent technique that is one of the hardest aspects for young pass rushers to learn. He’s a raw athlete but that is not necessarily a negative thing for him because his explosiveness is unteachable.

Tyron Crawford demanded a review of his likeness in MaddenNFL yesterday - and was successful!

The EASports team initially took Crawford’s request under advisement:

EA finally manned up and made the change, showing social media can be used for good.

For Charles Tapper, Mother’s Strength Is A Guide - David Helman,
An excellent, deep and insightful piece on Cowboys’ defensive end Charles Tapper. Well worth your time to learn about Tapper the person and how it shapes his life as Tapper the Cowboy.

Catch sight of his smile, and it’s hard to believe Charles Tapper has ever been unhappy about anything.

To this point in his star-crossed Cowboys career, his biggest legacy is unfortunate. The 25-year-old defensive end is oozing with talent, yet injuries have robbed him of two years to showcase it.

Frustrating though it may be, Tapper smiles through it. His slow chuckle is infectious. His smile, not to mention his positivity, have been his trademarks from Day 1.

“I just always knew coming to The Star, being with the Cowboys – being with any NFL team – is a blessing,” he says.

It’s a fair point, but it belies a journey that has featured no shortage of hardship. Because if you take a seat and chat with Charles Tapper for a few minutes, his smile becomes that much more impressive.

And if you have a chance to meet the Tapper Family, it becomes immediately clear that his most important work isn’t going to happen in a football uniform.

After flashing potential last year, Rod Smith is ready to be Ezekiel Elliott’s primary backup – Saad Yousef, The Athletic
Yousuf gives us the lowdown on running back Rod Smith and why he's the leading candidate to be Ezekiel Elliott's primary backup entering training camp.

Smith enters 2018 as Elliott’s backup at running back, a vote of confidence from a team that has reserved that role for a couple of veteran 1,000-yard rushers the past two seasons in Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. Going into the 2016 season, Elliott was a rookie who, despite lofty expectations, hadn’t stepped on an NFL field and could benefit from veteran mentorship. Starting the 2017 campaign, there was no question about Elliott’s ability or role but plenty of uncertainty regarding his availability as he engaged in a lengthy battle with the NFL.

With the opening contest against the Carolina Panthers now less than 50 days away, Elliott starts his first NFL season with no strings attached. Still, given the violent nature of the sport – and especially the running back position – depth is important.

That’s where Smith comes in.

He has shown the ability to be an all-around back that can run between the tackles, find the edge, catch the ball and hold up in pass-protection.

How does the offense make itself more Dak-friendly? - Brandon George,
George continues SportsDay's camp preview series with thoughts on a "Dak-friendly" offense.

The Cowboys spent much of the offseason emphasizing ways to make their offense more Dak Prescott-friendly to help the quarterback execute better after a sophomore season that wasn't as consistent as his rookie year.

The Cowboys certainly won't show all their cards in training camp practices, but you can be sure that some of the new wrinkles in the offense will be unveiled.

One of the new tools at offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's disposal is speedy receiver Tavon Austin. The Cowboys traded for Austin on the last day of the draft by shipping one of their sixth-round picks to the Rams.

Austin will also be involved in the running game at times and return punts. He figures to be a key third-down target for Prescott.

Michael Gallup will look to aid Cowboys’ new passing attack - Tyler Brooke, Cowboys Wire
A look at Gallup's strengths and weaknesses as a receiver and how that could impact his rookie season with the Cowboys.

Prescott saw his completion rate drop from 67.8 percent in 2016 to 62.9 percent in 2017, while his interceptions rose from only four his rookie year to 13 this past season.

Without Bryant or Witten to throw to, Prescott will have no choice but to look Gallup’s way early and often in 2018, which is quite a bit of pressure for a Day 2 draft pick.

Perhaps most important for Gallup as a rookie will be working on his technique and effort as a run blocker. There are times where Gallup takes plays off on running plays, but with how often the Cowboys run the ball, they’ll need the rookie WR to give 100 percent effort on every play.

With the pressure on the Cowboys passing game heading into 2018, Gallup is going to need to make a big name for himself, and fans are hoping to see some legitimate production from him in the coming months.

Cowboys DL takes another hit with Maliek Collins opening camp on PUP list - Jared Dubin,
Dubin reports on Collins' placement on the Physically Unable to Play list and chronicles his history of foot injuries.

Collins first broke his foot prior to his rookie season, but after surgery, he ended up getting healthy for the start of the year and had a terrific rookie campaign. He broke his foot again during the team's offseason program this May, which necessitated a second surgery on the foot within a four-month span. Collins is one of the Cowboys' better interior pressure players when he's healthy, but it's increasingly looking like his foot is going to be a long-term issue, what with this being the third consecutive season where there has been some sort of problem.

MMQB: Remembering Tony Sparano - Albert Breer,
Breer spent five years as a beat writer in Dallas when Sparano was a coach with the Cowboys and shares his memories of the man.

I first heard of Tony Sparano when I was 17 years old. He was the head coach at the University of New Haven, and he was recruiting a couple of my teammates—Brian Shay and Joe Bernotas—at Lincoln-Sudbury, outside of Boston. A decade later, when I got a job covering the Cowboys for the Dallas Morning News, I brought that up to Sparano.

He remembered everything about my teammates, who wound up only playing a year for him at the DII school (Sparano was off to the NFL as an offensive quality control coach for the Browns in 1999). After I was around him in Dallas, where he was an assistant for five seasons in the 2000s, it became abundantly clear why he had that kind of recall on a couple kids he had coached years earlier: The players mattered to him, and people mattered to him. Anyone could see that on a daily basis.

Like everyone else, I was stunned to hear of his death on Sunday. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Sparano went to the hospital on Thursday complaining of chest pains, and after evaluations he was sent home the following day. On Sunday his wife, Jeannette, found Sparano unconscious as they were getting ready to go to church on Sunday morning.

If you wanted to know what kind of person Sparano was, the outpouring of condolences from the NFL community explains it.

More Pressure This Season on Dak or Garrett? -
The gang continues their 20 questions roundtable series. David Helman makes an interesting case for why Dak Prescott has more riding on the 2018 season.

David Helman: You can make the case for either, but I think it’s got to be Dak. If Jason Garrett doesn’t guide this team to the playoffs in 2018, it’s a good bet he’s out of a job. But at the end of the day, he’s already made a lot of money coaching the Cowboys – and he could assuredly find another coaching job quickly. If Prescott struggles this year, it just might make the difference for the rest of his career. If he’s good in Year 3 and the Cowboys win, he’s likely going to earn himself a big-time contract extension and a long-term future as the face of this franchise. If he struggles and the Cowboys lose, this team might be looking for a quarterback in next year’s draft, and Prescott’s days on the roster might be numbered. That sounds dramatic, but it’s a sobering reminder of the nature of the NFL. Heading into his third year, Dak Prescott literally has everything to gain and everything to lose.

2017 Play-Action Offense - Bryan Knowles,
Knowles takes a big-picture view of the NFL’s use of play-action and it’s return to prominence in 2017.

Over the past decade, play-action passing peaked from 2012 to 2014, in what historians will surely call the Read Option Era. Teams averaged play-action on 21 percent of their passing plays in those years, as the Colin Kaepernicks and Robert Griffins roamed the Earth. That rise was created almost solely by what we called the “Big Six” -- Washington, Seattle, Philadelphia, Carolina, Minnesota and San Francisco. The rest of the league stayed more or less flat, and when defenses adapted to the read option and peak of the craze had died off, play-action frequency fell with it.

The frequency of play-action passing in 2015 and 2016 was roughly the same as it had been in 2010 and 2011 -- advanced from the primitive days of the ‘00s, but fairly flat overall. It looked like the bump was a temporary thing. The read option wasn’t exactly a Wildcat-esque fad, but it was a temporary trend that bumped everyone’s numbers up a bit.

Enter 2017.

Read the full story to learn Knowles’ conclusions. It’s an interesting, thought-provoking piece.