Dallas Cowboys

With Tyrone Crawford at tackle, is comeback kid Randy Gregory poised to start at end?

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory played 10 snaps in Saturday’s preseason game against the Bengals. It’s the first NFL game he’s played in since December 2016.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory played 10 snaps in Saturday’s preseason game against the Bengals. It’s the first NFL game he’s played in since December 2016. AP

It is no surprise that Tyrone Crawford has been pegged to move back to defensive tackle from defensive end.

He has jockeyed between both positions since 2012, starting primarily at tackle in 2014-15 and at end in 2016-17.

The Dallas Cowboys have long valued his versatility and they know he will give his best no matter where he plays.

A rash of injuries inside, plus the four-game suspension for David Irving, as well as a surplus of talent at defensive end prompted the move for Crawford this week. He is running with the first team at under tackle alongside nose tackle Antwaun Woods.

“You know me, I go with the flow,” Crawford said. “I am going to jump back inside and do my thing there. We got some killers at end. I feel real comfortable there. I am definitely happy about the move.”

With Crawford at tackle, Randy Gregory has started at right end opposite left end DeMarcus Lawrence with rookie Dorance Armstrong and Taco Charlton backing them up on each side, respectively.

That Gregory is in this position at all is the biggest surprise considering he is only in his second week participating fully in practice after not playing football since the 2016 season finale because of an NFL suspension due to repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.

It’s a testament to how far and fast Gregory has come in the last month in a return to the game that was supposed to be slow and deliberate. He spent the first two weeks of training camp doing primarily conditioning work.

Now a Cowboys team that once hoped Gregory would get up to speed in time to make a significant contribution about the time Irving returned from his suspension Oct. 1 is poised to put him in the starting lineup for the Sept. 9 season opener against the Carolina Panthers.

That perpetual smile Gregory wears after practice every day tells the whole story about how he feels about what he has accomplished so far less than a year after thinking he may never play again.

He has admittedly been thinking about playing in the season opener since he was reinstated by the NFL and allowed to join the Cowboys for training camp.

As far as starting, he said that decision is above his head.

“I don’t know,” Gregory said. “That’s something up to the coaches. All I can do is go out there and give my best effort, control what I can control, which is go hard, running hard, go after the ball. And I think I’m doing that. I think if I continue to do that, I have faith I’ll be out there when I need to be.”

Gregory did say that it was nice to be working with the first team in practice this week and looks forward to seeing more action against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. He played just 10 snaps, primarily on passing downs against the Cincinnati Bengals last Saturday.

“It’s nice,” Gregory said of working with the first-team defense. “I think I’ve prepared the right way as far as going out there. A lot of it is pass-rush situations and nickel packages and most of that is getting off the ball and getting after the quarterback, which I feel comfortable with. I think I’m doing pretty decent at that in practice and showing that on the field.”

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Gregory’s work with the first team is an example of the confidence the team has in him after what they have seen over the last month. He is not ready to name an opening day starter. But the odds certainly favor Gregory at this point and the Cowboys plan to get him ready.

“I want to get him in there,” Marinelli said. “I want to get him a lot of reps. Get him in there and get a lot of reps. Everything I have seen has been really productive so far. The more he works the better he is going to get.”

Marinelli also likes the possibilities of Crawford at tackle because of the added speed and quickness he brings to the position, ironically in part because of the weight he lost to play end. He is down to 285 pounds after playing at 290 last year.

“He has played in there and he is good in there,” Marinelli said of Crawford. “He is fast right now.”

Crawford also believes the added speed and quickness will make a difference inside at tackle. He said he is the best shape of his career and as healthy as he has been in awhile after battling shoulder injuries in the past.

“The good thing: I feel fast,” Crawford said. “I feel strong again. My shoulder is healed up. We will see how this rolls. I feel good about it though.”

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