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Cowboys news: Randy Gregory impresses, but is more trouble on the way?

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

5 takeaways from the Cowboys’ 27-3 preseason loss to Cardinals - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Among Machota’se five takeaways from the game, Randy Gregory looms large.

2. Randy Gregory continues to come on strong. Entering what is actually his second season after being suspended for almost all of the last two, Gregory has turned heads with his play at right defensive end. He made his presence known early on Sunday night, sacking Sam Bradford on Arizona’s third offensive snap of the game. As Jerry Jones has pointed out several times over the last two weeks, Gregory is dealing with a daily battle off the field.

“His road is still ahead of him and we got to be cautious about how we get excited about him,” Jones said recently. “It sure is good to see him getting to this particular point. But he’s involved in the kind of challenge that’s a day-to-day thing.”

But if he’s able to find a way to stay on the field for a full season, Gregory is the type of talent capable of a double-digit sack season. Quite the problem for opposing offenses to have to deal with Gregory on one side and DeMarcus Lawrence (14.5 sacks last season) on the other. Lawrence was asked Friday about the ceiling for him and Gregory rushing the passer from opposite ends.

“He better get there faster,” Lawrence said. “Tell him that.”

Watch Randy Gregory’s spin move to sack Sam Bradford in Cowboys-Cardinals preseason game - Jori Epstein, SportsDay
Gregory had a productive night on Sunday, encouraging those that are optimistic about the former second-round pick’s chances to be a factor in 2018. Look at this awesome spin move and sack on Sam Bradford:

Jason Garrett had this to say about the Nebraska product earlier in training camp:

“He’s done a really good job in practice,” head coach Jason Garrett said of Gregory last week. “He just needs to keep playing football.

”We’ll put him in a lot of different situations. He can handle a lot of that stuff. He needs to put his hand on the ground, play run defense, rush the quarterback and do it again and again and again and start to recapture some of the reps that he’s missed over the last year and a half.”

But, here’s the scary news Cowboys fans:

Jerry Jones kind of denies that:

We’ll have to wait and see if there is any issue ahead for Gregory.

Scout’s Notebook: Dallas Pass Rush Impresses - Bryan Broaddus,
In an otherwise forgettable night from AT&T Stadium, Broaddus still managed to get some favorable impressions from the defensive line.

EDGE: Randy Gregory continues to find ways to win off his first step. D.J. Humphries had no chance to stop Gregory on his sack. Gregory was able to gain ground, which forced Humphries to kick wide to get to him. Once Gregory felt Humphries’ weight to transfer from his right foot to his left, that’s all he needed to win to the inside. It was tremendous coverage by the nickel secondary to make the sack possible.

3-Technique: We had started to see more of Tyrone Crawford playing as the under-tackle in practice with Randy Gregory playing as the right end. Crawford carried that over from the practice field and started the game in that spot. Crawford was paired with Antwaun Woods on the inside with Gregory and Taco Charlton rotating at end. Crawford made a really nice stop beating Justin Pugh with a quick inside move to tackle Chase Edmonds for no gain.

1-technique: Daniel Ross continues to make a case for himself as a candidate for a spot on the final roster. Ross just destroyed Josh Allen with power, knocking him into the backfield and tripping up Sherman Badie just as he took the handoff from Charles Kanoff.

It’s an ugly night all around as the Cowboys get beaten badly by the Cardinals – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
Watkins has eight observations from last night's game, most of them not very pretty, but he likes what he saw from the first-team defense.

The Cowboys’ first-team defense got a majority of the first-half snaps and was probably the only positive from the night. And they were good. Gregory and Lawrence started at end in the nickel defense and combined for four tackles, three quarterback hurries and one sack. Gregory recorded the sack on the first series of the game with a bull rush on left tackle D.J. Humphries. Lawrence almost had a sack when he beat right tackle Andre Smith but quarterback Mike Glennon got rid of the ball in time with Lawrence at his ankles.

“Oh it’s scary,” linebacker Joe Thomas said of Gregory and Lawrence. “It’s scary. You got Randy on this side fast, quick and can get upfield quick. You got Lawrence on the other side, powerful, great moves, great with his hands, so quick, it’s dangerous, they collapsed the pocket real quick.”

One of the positives about Lawrence and Gregory is the quick first step they possess. In the base defense, the Cowboys might sit Gregory and use Taco Charlton at end. With Gregory’s emergence and the confidence level the coaches have in Charlton, the Cowboys moved Tyrone Crawford from right defensive end to three-technique and will have Antwaun Woods as the one-technique. When Maliek Collins returns Week 1 after his recovery from a foot injury, the Cowboys’ defensive line might be the best part of the defense.

ReFocused, NFL Preseason Week 3: Arizona Cardinals 27, Dallas Cowboys 3 - Staff, Pro Football Focus
PFF offer their take on last night's game.

It was certainly a poor performance for the Cowboys offense as they turned the ball over eight times. It’s slim pickings for top performers but rookie quarterback Mike White showed flashes, connecting on 17 of 22 throws for 157 yards.

Dallas couldn’t generate a consistent ground game all night, as they ended with 52 yards on 21 carries. With All-Pro center Travis Frederick expected to miss time, the lack of depth across the offensive line has to be a concern for them moving into the season.

Dallas’ secondary was able to hold Arizona’s passing game to 68 yards, with the longest completion being 13 yards. Dallas’ secondary was also responsible for multiple pass defenses.

The only touchdown the Cowboys allowed was due to a bust in their run gaps. Outside of that 59-yard run, the Cowboys run defense did enough to keep the Cardinals in third-and-long situations, allowing just two successful conversions for a first down.

Fighting for roster spot, Lance Lenoir has a night he wishes he - and the front office - could forget - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
On a night that Randy Gregory showed a lot of promise, Lance Lenoir had the opposite kind of performance.

Lenoir muffed two punts in the first quarter, part of a messy, turnover-filled game for Dallas.

The first turnover didn’t appear to be entirely his fault. Cornerback Byron Jones knocked him off balance going for a block.

When Arizona next punted again later in the quarter, Lenoir again couldn’t handle Andy Lee’s punt. Arizona’s Trent Sherfield recovered in the end zone to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead.

Cowboys could have a safety problem after Kavon Frazier leaves with injury - Stefan Stevenson, The Star-Telegram
Elsewhere on the defense, the depth at safety is far from ideal.

Could a move for a safety be in the works?

The Dallas Cowboys, already thin at safety, might have another injury on their hands. Strong safety Kavon Frazier left Sunday’s preseason game early in the first quarter with what appeared to be a left arm injury.

Frazier injured his arm while making a pass breakup. He left the field, was looked at by trainers and then headed for the locker room. Frazier returned to the sideline with no noticeable wrap or protection on his arm and was still dressed to play. He was already playing with a minor knee issue. Undrafted rookie Tyree Robinson replaced Frazier in the game.

Luckily, it looks like Frazier will be okay.

Earl Thomas’ holdout is one of the worst out there; why Cowboys are making the right decision by waiting on trade - SportsDay
Speaking of safety, Michael Lombardi had this to say about Earl Thomas and the on-going Cowboys rumors.

“I think it’s one of the worst holdouts out there. Earl’s gonna be a free agent at the end of the year. All he has to do is come in and play nine games and he gets his free agent credit. The Cowboys are saying we’d love to have Earl on our team, but why would we give up a huge asset for a player who’s going to become a free agent in 16 weeks.”

Lombardi also added some thoughts on Dak Prescott and the Cowboys.

On the state of the Cowboys:

“I think they got a great quarterback. I think anyone who blames Dak [Prescott]... Two of the best players everybody was touting last year, they’re not even in football. Jason Witten is in the broadcast booth and Dez Bryant is looking for a job. Those were the two key components of the offense last year. I said it last year, they were slow on offense, they had no explosion, they were easy to take out of the game and it put a lot of pressure on Dak to have to make pinpoint throws and really didn’t have any time to separate himself because it was all on him. Without [Ezekiel] Elliott in the backfield, it made it harder and harder.”

FMIA Camp All-Stars – Peter King, ProFootballTalk
Two Cowboys make King's list of eight players who stood out to him during his 22-team summer tour.

Jaylon Smith, LB, Dallas. Smith had a tour de force practice the day I saw him in Oxnard, Calif., breaking up three passes in a ones-versus-ones scrimmage drill. Looks to be largely recovered from the devastating leg injury he suffered in the Jan. 1, 2016 Fiesta Bowl that caused his draft stock to plummet from top five overall to the second round. The Cowboys are so excited about his potential return to greatness—everyone in the organization is trying to play it down, but it’s obvious Smith is ready to contribute to a big defense.

Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas. Man, what a smooth, confident receiver this third-round pick from Colorado State is. I saw him catch a high ball and toe-tap on the sideline like no big deal. Looks like a very solid pick and potential early-career starter for a team that really needs a good young receiver.

Why former TCU, NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson says Cowboys QB Dak Prescott will ‘surprise some people this year’ - SportsDay
Lombardi is not the only one with thoughts on Dak. Hall of Fame running back LaDanian Tomlinson had this to say about the Cowboys QB.

“I still think that they’ll be right there. They’ll be a strong team. I still believe that they will be able to run the football and I think Dak [Prescott] will surprise some people this year. I know most people think because of the lack of weapons outside that Dak might not put up the type of numbers that most of the top quarterback will this year, but I disagree with that. This will force Dak to find connections with other guys. Allen Hurns, guys that are new to the team, he’s gonna find connections with those guys.”

“Obviously, having a guy like Cole Beasley there as a security blanket, especially on third downs and different situations in the game, I think he’s gonna do quite well. So yeah, the running game might suffer a little bit because of the offensive line, but I think Dak picks up his game. The thing that we all have seen over the last two years with Rod Marinelli’s defense is that they always play better than expected, they always are very solid. So you can’t undermine what they’re going to bring to the table. I think that secondary may be one of the strongest positions on that football team.”

Dallas Cowboys: The cure to Dak Prescott’s deep ball problems - Reid Hanson, SportDFW
Concerned with Dak’s deep ball? Maybe Deonte Thompson can help with that.

Early in training camp we’ve seen him do some pretty big things as well. Not just as a deep threat but executing a full route tree. Recently we’ve seen Thompson miss a ton of time and as a result we’ve seen Dak Prescott’s deep ball struggles continue.

Without Deonte’s breakaway speed on the field, separation on the deep routes is limited. Because of this Dak often overthrows his receivers – erring on the side of caution and avoiding an unsavory turnover. With greater separation comes a bigger margin of error for Dak. And with that security, Dak’s more likely to deliver a catchable ball.

Cowboys WR Deonte Thompson will finally get his opportunity to shine over the next two weeks - Connor Livesay, BTB
Livesay wrote about how the next two weeks will play a big role in Thompson’s future.

It’s tough to even guess who may have the upper hand right now between Thompson and Lenoir. Thompson played under Sanjay Lal in Buffalo, and the receiving room lacks the speed element that Thompson brings to the table. But for Lance Lenoir, it’s hard to find someone who has put in as much work, and has as much success this preseason and training camp.

Deonte Thompson will need to prove over the next two preseason games and final training camp practices that he belongs on the Cowboys roster. Thompson should get plenty of opportunities at both receiver and return man tonight for the Cowboys, if he wants a spot on the 53-man roster, he will need to take advantage of every opportunity he gets the rest of the offseason.

Everybody hurts: A look at the current state of the Cowboys offensive line - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
Hairopoulos writes about the question marks surrounding the Cowboys; offensive line depth.

The misfortunes of the Cowboys’ renowned offensive line dominated the buildup to Sunday night’s preseason game at AT&T Stadium.

When the unit took the field against the Arizona Cardinals, it included three of the five players expected to start as Dallas moves forward despite the uncertainty of center Travis Frederick’s status as he battles an autoimmune disorder.

As if there hasn’t been enough going on with the O-line, it appeared Looney might have injured his hand at the end of the first half -- and while making a tackle after an interception by backup quarterback Cooper Rush, of all things. Trainers examined him on the bench, though he appeared to be OK.

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