Randy Gregory is back to being a wrecking ball for the Dallas Cowboys. His road back to the NFL is both well-documented in some areas while being unnecessarily glossed over in others, but the veteran pass rusher's declaration in an exclusive 2020 talk with CBS Sports -- in that he'll "be back for good this time" -- is proving true, and his presence is routinely being felt by opposing quarterbacks. While he's still working to raise his sack tally, Gregory often leads the Cowboys in pressures, narrowly missing sacks but providing the pressure that funnels QBs into the hands of his compatriots. This was never more prevalent than in the team's blowout victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16 when Gregory bullied Jalen Hurts time and again.
Gregory finished the game with three forced fumbles, a career high and the most by any Cowboys defender since 2016, leading the team in that category as well as stops (3) and pressures (5) -- per Pro Football Focus -- also adding 1.5 sacks and a pass deflection to his bottom line on Sunday. He's now third in total pressures amongst Dallas defenders and tied for first in QB hits, and as impressive as this all is for a player who was sidelined the entirety of 2019 due to suspension, it's even more so when factoring in how he was forced to sit an additional six games in 2020 before returning to practice to participate in only nine games thus far.
The 27-year-old has 3.5 sacks going into the regular season finale against the New York Giants, and with zero starts, also finishing with the highest grade for edge defenders in Week 16 with 94.6 (PFF), besting rookie sensation Chase Young, among others. A gleeful Gregory, who recently explained his mindset in viewing it as "an honor" to play for the Cowboys, admitted he's still getting his game form back -- literally feeling every bit of the impact he's making.
"I was joking with Tyrone [Crawford] on the sideline [that] it's probably the worst I've felt physically in a game as far as wear and tear," he said, via the team's website. "But you've got to keep pushing forward."
He's doing just that, becoming more and more of an issue for opposing offenses, making for a stout rotation at the edge with DeMarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith -- two All-Pro caliber talents. It's not the first time Gregory has seamlessly reinserted himself into the Cowboys pass rush, having the best season of his career in 2018, when he returned from suspension to deliver six sacks and two forced fumbles in 14 games with only one start. At his current pace, he would've bested what he did in 2018, if not for the aforementioned additional six-game sitdown imposed by the NFL to begin 2020.
As the Cowboys enter another must-win with the possibility of unexpectedly stealing the NFC East crown, Gregory is set to be a major key in what they do going forward, which includes through the 2021 season in which he's now contracted -- via an extension signed following his latest reinstatement.
So while he might be a little sore, he's all smiles and ready to keep the good times rolling.
"As far as day to day -- feeling strong, feeling like I can go out there and really play at my highest level," Gregory said. "I've really stayed consistent with that throughout the year. Very proud of myself for that. I think in years past, I couldn't say the same. But this year, I've done a pretty good job."
That he has and, at this rate, he might find himself landing another [bigger] extension with the Cowboys -- soon.
"We know what he's been through," said team exec Stephen Jones to 105.3FM the Fan. "I'm just so fired up for him in terms of the journey that he's taken, the challenges he's overcome -- get to play football, and not only get out there and play, but play at a high level, which certainly you knew he could. It's why we drafted him where we drafted him. We were certainly eyes wide open to the challenges that were in front of him. But you look at a guy like that and your hat's off to him, the job that he's done, not unlike Aldon Smith, who has done a great job as well."
With the new collective bargaining agreement in place and Gregory prospering mentally, the sky is once again his limit.