Under the Microscope: Randy Gregory


As people got excited over soon-to-be draft prospects over the summer, Randy Gregory was getting vastly overrated. Prior to 2014, the Nebraska defensive end was a freak athlete, but his fundamentals, run defense and general feel for a football game were poor. It was his flashes of All-Pro pass rushing potential that caught the eye of many. At the time, he was raw, but the development that he has displayed in 2014 has been impressive.

Listed at 6’6″ and 245 pounds,  Gregory has the frame to be one hell of an edge rusher and he is built like a Greek god. His arms droop down to near his knees, sort of like Jason Pierre-Paul or Aldon Smith. As tall as he is, Gregory has room to add a bit more bulk and he will need to do so at the next level, but that is not a concern by any means. He can and will bulk up.

Gregory possesses the explosion and fluidity to win with little more than sheer athleticism on some plays. Now, his burst off of the line is inconsistent and can even be so sluggish that he loses the play immediately, but when he is “on,” he is a menace. More often than not, his “bad” get-offs are when his hand is in the dirt, whereas more of his “good” get-offs come when he is standing up. This is one of the handful of reasons that may make Gregory more suitable for a 3-4 than a 4-3 defense.

Gregory does not get the sack here, but his initial burst off the line and his following counter-step to get to the edge is enough to beat this right tackle. He forces the tackle to hesitate as he braces for impact because of Gregory’s initial explosion, allowing Gregory to gain and bend the edge. Had this throw not been a predetermined swing throw, this is almost certainly a sack.

In the same way Gregory uses his burst to gain the edge, he can use his burst to attack linemen directly. Taking on an offensive tackle head on requires a conversion of speed to power, which Gregory has shown he is up and down with. In some areas of this, he thrives, but in others, he struggles.

Namely, Gregory has the initial burst of speed off the line and leg drive when engaged to win by attacking linemen head on.

Gregory fires off the line at the snap and continues to grind his legs to generate power and blow through the tackle. Near the end, he also throws the off-balanced tackle to make room for himself to get to the quarterback. But, to digress to the process of the rush, Gregory does not synchronize any movement between his legs and his hands. Simply, Gregory relies on his leg drive to win this play, and it works.

This time, Gregory tries the same approach as the previous GIF,  but he gets held up when he initially tries to drive through the lineman, resulting in him being nullified for the play. Had Gregory been punching the lineman’s chest with each step, he’d have had a better shot at forcing the tackle off-balance and further into the pocket. To Gregory’s advantage, this is not a fatal flaw and is something that he can be taught to do more fluidly.

To that note, Gregory also needs to be taught to take more direct angles. That, or land with a defensive coordinator who will make this much easier for him by lining him up wide all the time. Gregory has a tendency to step out wide, then take a sharp cut back at the tackle in an effort to get into space and generate power. There are two problems here.

For one, this is wasted movement. If Gregory isn’t lined up wide and in position to easily generate speed to power, find another way. Instead, he needs to either “knife” inside (which, to be fair, he has done at times) or be simplistic and gun for the edge, then bend the arch and win that way.

The second issue is that what he is trying to accomplish just isn’t very plausible. He is having to get out wide, the generate burst again toward the tackle and pick up a ton of momentum in a short amount of space. Despite having all the athleticism one can dream for, Gregory still won’t win by doing this.

Gregory tries to do it here, but as you can see, he kind of just gives up once he starts working back to the tackle because he is moving so slow and has no other way to beat the lineman. Had he taken a sharper angle to the edge, Gregory gives himself more of a chance to get around the arch and to the quarterback.

To backtrack a little bit to Gregory’s hand usage, he is both good and bad there.

Gregory’s hand usage is good in the sense that his ability to stack and shed lineman, both as a rusher and as a run defender. He can use his body to move linemen one way to set them up for him to stop his movement and use the linemen’s momentum against themselves to clear them out of the way.

In this case, Gregory shows off his lower body strength and hand usage to clog a running lane, then release from the block and get to the ball carrier. It should be noted that both hand usage and run defense were areas that Gregory had issues with in 2013, but has taken strides in this season.

Gregory’s “bad” hand usage is what I referred to earlier when talking about hand synchronization, and it is the aspect of hand usage that Gregory has yet to fix.

On top of wishy-washy hand usage, Gregory has a bad habit of getting too upright at the snap. When he gets leverage, he is a deadly player, but he too often gets his shoulders too high and allows the opposing lineman to get under him and move him off the ball. This is especially problematic for Gregory as a run defender because, despite his power and length, he gets washed so far out of the play so quickly that he is useless.

Again, this is more of an issue when Gregory has his hand in the dirt, where he tends to be later to respond to the snap of the ball. To bring it up again, Gregory would benefit from being in a system that allows him to work with space and/or be a stand up player on the edge.

Even better, Gregory has seen snaps as a stand up interior rusher, similar to what the Baltimore Ravens have done with Pernell McPhee this year. There, he can come downhill and bull rush the man in front him.

Or Gregory can do this. He sees an opportunity to loop around and get to the quarterback. Though he does not get the sack and only forces the quarterback off of his spot, this is an incompletion or delayed sack if the linebacker does not take himself out of coverage and open up the receiver. From the words of Rotoworld’s Josh Norris, “Disruption is production.”

Randy Gregory is quite clearly talented, but, as should be expected of any prospect, he has his deficiencies. Gregory is not going to be a player that dominates early on in his career because of little things like angles and hand/leg synchronization, but with time, he can and will be one of the better edge rushers in the league, even more so if he is allowed to work more freely in space than a typical 4-3 defensive end.

It is easy to see why many project him in the top five, and that is fair, but personally, I would rather take a more pro-ready player at such a premier position. Gregory should be valued more closely to picks 10-20, but as I hinted at, it is unlikely that he lasts that long, even despite this year’s edge rusher class being quite deep.

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