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Cowboys news: Examining how Randy Gregory has exceeded expectations in his return

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Film room: How Cowboys DE Randy Gregory has exceeded all expectations of his NFL return - John Owning, Dallas Morning News

Randy Gregory’s play has been one bright spot in a disappointing season.

Since returning from a near two-year absence stemming from violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Randy Gregory has been the third-most efficient pass rusher in the NFL. After such a layoff, most would have been satisfied with Gregory being the third-most efficient pass rusher on the Cowboys’ roster (behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith), let alone the entire league. Those numbers are slightly skewed due to the fact that Gregory’s rotational role has limited his snap count — Gregory has 30 fewer pass-rush snaps than Bosa since Week 7 and 81 less than Watt — but they still illustrate how effective he has been in his role since returning.

Overall, Gregory has accumulated 14 pressures (seven hurries, five QB hits, two sacks) in 70 pass-rush snaps to achieve his 11.4 PRP this season, according to PFF. Gregory has been utilized primarily as a third-down and pass-rush specialist since his return, so we are going to focus solely on his pass rushing here. Gregory has mainly found success using power and inside moves while his speed rush — previously one of his most potent weapons which he used to beat top players like Jason Peters and Bryan Bulaga — has largely been absent. None of Gregory’s pressures have come on account of a pure speed rush.

The 28-year-old looks noticeably heftier than before (he’s listed at 255 pounds), which has undoubtedly helped his ability to win with power. This development has been best expressed through a potent euro-step bull rush.

Cowboys bitten by fundamentals, defensive talent deficit – Bob Sturm, The Athletic

Fundamental struggles continue to kill the Cowboys.

The games against Atlanta, New York and Pittsburgh featured fine run-stopping efforts, but Cleveland, Arizona and both games against Washington canceled out any good and continued heaping on the bad. These four games all have one thing in common, and it is absolutely killing the Cowboys. It is YBC — yards before contact. We have known about YAC for years. It helps demonstrate who can break tackles and who runs hard through contact. If you can break a tackle and then break a long run, well, you are a machine like Adrian Peterson or Derrick Henry.

This is the opposite. On many of these runs, YBC is less about before than it is without. How many times this year have we seen a player burst through a gap without so much as a hand on him? Too many.

If you are the worst team in the league at YBC, it can often mean that you “just aren’t getting lined up right.” That often does look like either a coaching problem or players being unsure of their roles — which, to be fair, at the NFL level, could be identified as a coaching problem. We have talked about how Mike Nolan’s side of the ball has not looked substandard as much as they have clueless at times. I don’t think Thursday’s pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs reflect a team that has totally put those problems behind them.

Cowboys Roundtable: What should Dallas’ top priority be for the rest of the season? - Staff, Dallas Morning News

What should be the focus in the remaining five games?

What is QB Andy Dalton’s future with the Cowboys? Will he be the backup next season David Moore: Dalton doesn’t consume a lot of cap room. He’s on the books for $3 million, a reasonable price for a quarterback with his level of experience. But he didn’t sign here to settle into the backup phase of his career. This was a one-year deal to take a deep breath then search for a team that will give him the opportunity to compete for a starting job going forward. That won’t happen here. Does that mean the door is shut on his return? Not completely. He could decide it makes sense to stay another year with Dak Prescott coming off a major injury. He could decide he’s comfortable with a backup role at this stage of his career. But chances are Dalton and the Cowboys will part amicably at the end of the season and the Cowboys go with a younger, cheaper option.

Calvin Watkins: It’s not a bad idea to keep Dalton around for 2021. I’m not sure if you want to rely on Garrett Gilbert as the No. 2 man behind Dak Prescott. The interesting thing about Dalton is he’s strictly a backup quarterback, a role as a starter in this league is probably over. However, with so many QB-starved teams in the NFL, somebody might give him a shot to start.

5 Bucks: Slim Playoff Hopes Hinge On This Position - Bucky Brooks, Dallascowboys.com

Somehow, someway, Dallas still has a slim shot at the postseason.

McCarthy needs to scale back his gambling ways....The Cowboys' head coach has won over 60-percent of his games with a straightforward approach that didn't feature excessive gambles and risky decisions. He routinely called the game by the book and his reliance on old school odds led to solid results. Since joining the Cowboys, McCarthy has become a more daring decision-maker with a host of failed fourth-down gambles, two-point attempts, and trick plays undermining the team's chances of winning.

Although it is easy to point to those failed decisions in hindsight, I'm more concerned about McCarthy's 180-degree turn as a decision-maker. He has abandoned an approach that made him one of the most successful coaches in NFL history in favor of a high-risk, high-reward strategy that produces inconsistent results.

In the NFL, more games are lost due to self-inflicted wounds (sacks, turnovers, and penalties) and questionable management decisions. McCarthy has won a number of games by coaching "clean" games with minimal risk-taking. If he wants to reverse the Cowboys' fortunes, he has to get back to the conservative approach that led his opponents to self-destruct under the pressure of needing to play a perfect game. McCarthy trusted a conservative process in the past to win big with the Packers and he needs to rely on that same process to chalk up wins in Dallas.

5 Pending Free Agents Dallas Cowboys Should Re-sign - Brian Martin, Inside The Star

Which pending free agents do you want to see back in Dallas?

LB Joe Thomas....A backup capable of starting, Joe Thomas has proven time and time again his value when thrust into action. He’s performed just as well, if not better, than either Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch as a starter when needed and can continue to do so if re-signed. Behind Smith and LVE next year LB depth is a concern. Thomas could be a cost-effective option to help provide some much-needed depth and someone the Cowboys know and trust already.

LS L.P. Ladouceur.....The Dallas Cowboys should continue to re-sign L.P. Ladouceur as long as he wants to continue to play. It’s as simple as that. He’s been as close to perfect as there can be snapping the ball and there’s no reason to change that as long as he wants to continue playing. Re-signing a long snapper may not be viewed as a big free agent signing as some of the other players previously mentioned, but no one will have to worry about any snapping issues as long as No. 91 is employed.

Dallas Cowboys in position to draft a player who can help instantly - Brandon Ladd, The Landry Hat

If Dallas finishes with a top-five pick, should they target an offensive linemen?

Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell is the top-rated offensive linemen in the 2021 NFL Draft according to ESPN’s top 2021 prospects. He left a lasting impression on many NFL evaluators in just two seasons as a Duck. In 2019, he won the Outland Trophy as the best lineman in the country and was a First Team All-American. Sewell opted-out of the 2020 college football season in September after uncertainty regarding the Pac-12 season at the time.

Sewell is listed at 330 pounds with a massive 6 foot, 6-inch frame. Imagine the opportunities that Sewell would give to a Cowboys line looking for a resurgence of life in front of quarterback Dak Prescott in 2021. Elliott would appreciate more space to run next season as well, another season he will be under a microscope for his play this year.

Sewell started at left tackle at Oregon but would be expected to transition to right tackle if he would be drafted by Dallas. Just dream though, an offensive line that features Sewell and Smith, two-top 10 NFL picks at tackles. Then features Collins and Martin at guards, with the ability to shift Williams to center.

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