Cowboys fans might have a tough time finding things to be excited about following their Thanksgiving Day loss, and that’s understandable. Dallas had a chance to build on their success in recent weeks, and enter first place in the NFC East, but instead suffered a 25-point home loss at the hands of their newly named but longtime rival, the Washington Football Team.
The score doesn’t quite tell the story of the game, as Dallas was down four with the ball to start the fourth quarter, and the contest wasn’t completely void of positive performances from players in a Cowboys uniform. Perhaps the most notable of said performances came from defensive end Randy Gregory.
Gregory was reinstated to the NFL early in the 2020 offseason, following a string of violations of the league’s substance abuse policy that caused him to be suspended for all of 2019. The 28-year old defensive end first returned to action in Week 7 against Washington, but began seeing significant number of snaps the next week versus the Eagles, and his impact was immediately noticeable.
Gregory compiled five pressures in his first three full outings and provided a needed boost to the Cowboys pass rush that was being held above water by All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
During Thursday’s Thanksgiving showdown, the former top talent out of Nebraska played what could be considered his best game as a Cowboy, as he recorded two sacks in just 29 snaps. The two sacks were Gregory’s first since his reinstatement, and the game was Gregory’s first ever two-sack game in his short NFL career.
The first of the two sacks came on 3rd and 7 on the very first Washington drive.
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) November 26, 2020
On this play, Dallas put Gregory and the defensive tackle, Aldon Smith, in a stunt (sometimes called a twist), where Gregory loops towards the inside after Smith crosses the guard’s face and slams into the tackle. DeMarcus Lawrence deserves a ton of credit here as well, as he blew past the right tackle, forcing Alex Smith to step up in the pocket and into the grasp of Gregory who had just used his speed and explosiveness to get by the left guard.
The following sack was less about a called defensive maneuver, or a teammate driving the QB his way, and more about Gregory using his natural abilities to quickly win the pass rush snap.
Gregory lines up on the outside shoulder of the Washington left guard Wes Schweitzer. Gregory initial step is towards the outside, but he quickly redirects to Schweitzer’s inside gap, and utilizes a swim move to then get by Schweitzer, and reach the quarterback before he can find an open option.
Dallas Morning News’ John Owning broke down the play, and noted, “Schweitzer is a good enough guard — he’s allowed just 14 total pressures and one sack this season — but most guards just aren’t used to the blend of speed, quickness and explosiveness Gregory brings to the table rushing the passer.”
Lawrence continued his stellar play on Thanksgiving as well, but it wasn’t quite as surprising as the recently reinstated Gregory’s career high sack game. Dallas re-signed Gregory to a one-year deal in September, a move that looks increasingly good for the Cowboys as Gregory has a ton of football left in the tank and is still just scratching the surface of his potential as a pass rusher.