IRVING, Texas – After a productive training camp and three sacks in the four preseason games, Dallas Cowboys rookie defensive end Randy Gregory had the look of a possible Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Four games into his career, he is not only looking for his first sack of the season, he is looking for his first tackle.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gone this deep into a season not recording any kind of stats,” Gregory said. “It’s frustrating because on one end I know I can make plays, but on the other end I kind of have to understand that I’ve missed a lot of time. And the times I have been out there I haven’t been out there that much.”
Gregory’s rookie season has been set back by a high ankle sprain suffered in the season opener against the New York Giants. He missed the next four games to get healthy, but has not played more than 13 snaps in the rematch against the Giants, Seattle Seahawks or Philadelphia Eagles.
Health is not a problem now.
“I know that’s what everyone is thinking with the amount of playing time, but it’s who they feel most comfortable with putting out there, who’s making plays, who’s hot,” Gregory said. “For me, I’ve got to figure out a way to kind of have a sixth-man mentality, going in there, coming in there hot, warmed up and being able to make plays right away. I think I’ll start seeing some more plays out there.”
At Nebraska, Gregory was used to playing all the time. In the opener against the Giants, he played 18 snaps before getting hurt, but the Cowboys did not have Greg Hardy that night and the defensive line rotation has grown a little tighter. He has played 31 snaps in the last three games.
In order to stay warm, he spends time riding the bike on the sideline and stretching between series.
Gregory has five quarterback pressures. David Irving, who was signed in part because of Gregory’s absence off the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad on Sept. 29, has been credited by the coaches with six tackles, two tackles for loss and seven quarterback pressures.
Gregory acknowledged he has to regain the coaches’ trust a little.
“Day by day, I think the biggest thing in practice is showing them I can handle everything, which I have,” Gregory said. “But I’ve got to kind of give them a reason to put me out there again. I’ve got to make plays. A guy like David Irving, next to me he’s probably getting the least amount of snaps than the other guys, but when he’s in there he’s making plays, so it gives him chances to get more snaps in there. I kind of have to do the same thing.”