Keeping a lid on the reigning NFL Rookie of the Year is no small task, but it's exactly what the Dallas Cowboys were able to achieve in their 20-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2. Even more impressive was who they did it without -- starting defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory absent due to a fractured foot and a stint on the COVID/reserve list, respectfully -- leading to rookie first-round pick Micah Parsons leaving his imprint on the victory as a pass rusher.
And while Lawrence isn't expected to return for another 5-7 weeks from now, the Cowboys are readying for the return of Gregory when they begin their three-game homestand against the rival Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. Gregory was expected to be activated from the COVID/Reserve list this week, per head coach Mike McCarthy this past Monday, adding some serious firepower to a defensive front that must now contain a mobile threat in quarterback Jalen Hurts.
That expectation became a reality on Wednesday, sources tell CBS Sports, with Gregory returning to the team facility and "all is well" for his return in Week 3.
Gregory didn't log any sacks in the two-point loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, but his three hurries helped keep Tom Brady unsettled en route to seeing the reigning Super Bowl MVP throw an uncharacteristic two interceptions, and he also tends to find another gear when the Eagles are on the field. In his last five games against Philadelphia, Gregory has 4.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, 10 quarterback hurries, 19 combined tackles and three forced fumbles -- as a rotational player.
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Now that he's the starter, he'll have many more opportunities to get after Hurts, who struggled mightily against the San Francisco 49ers front in Week 2, finishing with only 12 completions in 23 attempts for 190 yards and two interceptions to zero touchdowns. Hurts was able to rattle off 10 rushing attempts for 82 yards, but the Eagles scored only 11 points in the loss, and that's a formula the Cowboys wouldn't mind living with as well.
And considering the Eagles are also expected to be without starting offensive lineman Brandon Brooks -- likely heading to injured reserve with a strained pec -- the return of Gregory for this contest looms that much larger.
The former second-round pick is playing in a contract year that's as much about redemption and recompense for the Cowboys as it is about money and, not lacking for motivation after having also lost a game due to COVID-19, a combination of Gregory and Parsons (
That is, of course, how the Cowboys hope it plays out in their first home game of 2021.