Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory makes up for size with 'heavy hands'

OXNARD, Calif. -- Randy Gregory is listed as 255 pounds in the Dallas Cowboys media guide. He said he is probably in the 240s. After 12 training-camp practices, he might be lighter than that.

Gregory’s bulk has been a topic of discussion since his last season with Nebraska. A scout with one team said Gregory was playing at 225 pounds late last season. After the Cowboys picked him in the second round in May, he checked in at 229 pounds.

His mission the entire offseason was to add bulk. There is an In-n-Out Burger not far from the Cowboys complex in Oxnard, California, if he gets the urge for the food he ate almost daily in the spring if the food the team provides is not enough.

But just because Gregory is not the biggest doesn’t mean he can’t play big. Gregory has what scouts and coaches call “heavy hands.”

“It’s just physical; just heavy,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “When you strike something, you’re just heavy with it. Explosive. Heavy. He’s very strong in terms of that.”

Said coach Jason Garrett, “It’s a really descriptive term, and we talk about it a lot, really with almost every player on our team. When someone who has heavy hands strikes you, you feel it. Some guys might be strong in the weight room, but they’re not heavy-handed guys.”

Heavy hands can be made but mostly players are born with the attribute.

“I think you can work on it as far as power and getting stronger, but I was definitely blessed with that,” Gregory said. “I think my dad has heavy hands.”

"It's just physical; just heavy. When you strike something, you're just heavy with it. Explosive. Heavy. He's very strong in terms of that." Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, on Randy Gregory's power

Kenneth Gregory played defensive line and linebacker at Northwestern before joining the Navy. At a young age, Gregory found out just how heavy his father’s hands were.

“I tried him one time,” Gregory said. “I’ll never do it again. I definitely think I was blessed with that. It’s definitely a trait that you want as a defensive end and great rusher.”

Gregory’s athleticism is his most impressive trait. On a one-on-one pass rush move against R.J. Dill on Sunday, he was able to bend so low around the corner, his hands dragged on the grass, which is something DeMarcus Ware perfected in becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks.

But what the heavy hands allows Gregory is the chance to battle much bigger offensive linemen if his speed and quickness doesn’t work. He can redirect them in a bid to get to the ball carrier or quarterback. He can keep them from getting tight into his chest.

“They’ve got what you call, ‘man’s strength,’ not so much weight room,” Marinelli said. “Power. It generates from your legs and your hips.”

It wasn’t until Gregory arrived at Nebraska that he realized the importance of using his hands. In high school and junior college, he was run around a blocker to make a play. Sometimes he would get out of position. Other times it made it easier for the bigger linemen to handle him.

“I know I’m not the biggest guy, but I think that works in my favor sometimes,” Gregory said.

Ware had heavy hands. Left tackle Tyron Smith might have the heaviest hands. Gregory often finds himself matched up with Smith, one of the best tackles in the NFL. He has been more effective against Smith than Greg Hardy at times in camp, but he has been able to do it mostly with his speed off the corner.

But if Smith gets his hands on him, the contest is over.

“If I have strong hands, I don’t know what he has,” Gregory said. “He’s got a great punch. He’s got bigger hands than I do and he’s a bigger body so it’s just another thing I’ve got to work on to try to get away from those hands and use my hands to knock his away.”