Jerry Jones is bracing for the worst but hoping for the best with Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory.
On Monday, Gregory landed on the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list after recently testing positive for the coronavirus, jeopardizing his availability heading into Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“He’s doing things to give him the best chance at having a negative test,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. “We’ll keep testing him out there with the protocol, and keep our fingers crossed that we could get a quick bout with this COVID. I would say that it’s not serious symptoms.”
According to reports, Gregory is vaccinated and asymptomatic. He must produce two consecutive negative tests, separated 24 hours apart, to come off the COVID list, per NFL protocols.
In related news, starting right guard Zack Martin and backup offensive tackle Brandon Knight were activated from the list Monday after missing Dallas’ season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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Gregory Registered Impact vs. Bucs
All things considered, it was a solid 2021 debut for the ever-embattled pass-rusher, who registered one tackle and a fumble recovery across 37 defensive snaps at Tampa Bay. Gregory was part of the collective that held the reigning Super Bowl champs to 52 rushing yards and turned over Tom Brady twice.
“The Cowboys have come a long way since they finished with an NFL-worst 11 takeaways in 2015,” The Athletic’s Jon Machota wrote after the game. “Between 2016 and 2019 they never totaled more than 21 or less than 17. In McCarthy’s first year as head coach in 2020, that number climbed to 23. With better talent and everyone being on the same page, which was a significant issue last year, that number could climb to the high 20s or even low 30s. And it probably has to for this defense to make up for some of its shortcomings.”
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How Dallas Would Replace Gregory
Assuming he fails to gain clearance prior to Sunday, the Cowboys likely start Dorance Armstrong or Tarell Basham in Gregory’s place against the Chargers. Armstrong and Basham combined for four tackles in Week 1.
It is also possible, but hardly probable, that the team would lean more heavily on outside linebacker Jaylon Smith for pass-rushing heat. Smith logged just 16 of 65 snaps against the Buccaneers, as he and fellow veteran Leighton Vander Esch (14 snaps) have taken a distinct backseat to first-round rookie Micah Parsons and free-agent addition Keanu Neal.
“I would say this is early,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said Monday, “and we’re certainly expecting those guys to play a lot. Some games, they’ll play a ton. Some games, it will be more balanced. I feel like we’ve got four excellent linebackers. … I’d expect games to be different as the season goes on.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL