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Daily Defeats To D-Ware Made Tyron Better; Now Gregory Learns Lessons


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IRVING, TexasRandy Gregory admits it. He’s taking NFL Pass Rush 101 in these offseason workouts, and Tyron Smith is teaching class.

“I do what I can,” Gregory says with a grin, “but he’s one of the best tackles in the league. There’s only so much you can do.”

That’s OK. Smith, the Cowboys’ two-time All-Pro left tackle, once got a rookie educationarrow-10x10.png from an all-time great.

In 2011, DeMarcus Ware – then a five-time All-Pro pass rusher – routinely beat Smith, the ninth overall pick that year, during practice. After practice, Smith turned failures into lessons. He spent extra time learning how to counter Ware’s cache of rush moves with his natural balancearrow-10x10.png of power and agility.

“He kicked my butt,” Smith said at the 2015 Pro Bowl when he and Ware, now with the Denver Broncos, reunited on Team Michael Irvin. “But he kicked my butt into the shape that I needed to be.”

In time, Smith developed to the point where he could share his own advice with Ware. The symbiotic relationship made both into better players.

Fast forward a few years, and the student now can be a mentor. Working with Gregory, arguably the most giftedarrow-10x10.png pass rusher in the NFL’s 2015 rookie class, 2014 second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence and the rest of the Cowboys’ rushers is a role Smith embraces.

“The best thing you can do is work hard and push each other to basically anything as far as technique-wise. Just the mentality to keep working hard,” he said. “For me, it’s getting together and working on those small things.”

Gregory is a second-round pick with first-round hype, having tallied 17.5 sacks in 24 games at Nebraska. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sees length and frame similarities between Gregory and Simeon Rice, an elite rusher on Marinelli’s Bucs defenses in the early 2000s.

The Cowboys need Gregory to help improve last year’s pass rush that ranked 28th in the league with only 28 sacks. With veteran Greg Hardy appealing a 10-game league suspension, Gregory should have a significant role early at right defensive end.

In the non-contact OTA sessions open to the media, he admittedly didn’t have much success getting past Smith. Hopefully, he says, practice against one of the league’s elite left tackles will make the games seem easier.

“He’s everything as advertised,” Gregory said of Smith. “He’s got some of the best feet I’ve seen for a guy his size. He knows the little details of the position, even at my position, which makes him better.”

Of course, Smith learned a lot of those details from Ware.

The Cowboys assigned Gregory the No. 94 jersey worn by Ware and Ring of Honor inductee Charles Haley. He’ll try to make his own way, though, starting with adjustments to the physical grind of NFL competition. He’s currently around 243 pounds and hopes to add more weight before the season, which will help him hold up against opposing the run.

Gregory’s best asset is his ability to reach opposing quarterbacks. Smith is paid handsomely for his ability to protect Tony Romo against the league’s other 31 teams.

Class is now in session.

“He’s just been doing it at this level a lot longer than I have,” Gregory said. “He knows a lot more of the game than I do, but I think I’m catching on as the days go. Hopefully he’s noticing it.

“He makes me better. I haven’t really told him that, but he definitely makes me better.”

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This is the sort of thing we said about Trufant going up every day against Roddy and Julio. Just can't help but get better. Gregory is getting an education.

Yep, Ware taught Smith and Smith is teaching Gregory.

Same thing I think about Jones going up against Bryant (if he'll ever show up to practice).

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Nope. Sounds like he is learning from him and going against the best either exposes you or makes you better.

But when he is out there he will have help sometimes and that isnt a boulder he has to shoulder alone. But if he can do it now it will only make him better.

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It's good for him if he is getting better from it, and it makes sense because there are a lot of benefits to it.

Smith mentioned learning how to counter to moves, Gregory can learn about how to respond to different things a tackle does, moves to get around it and etc. If he is willing to put in the 'learning' work he will likely figure those things out, and in going up against a top tackle enough times he will see more of what they do, and the more times he faces him the more of a chance there is for him to figure something out to get better 'he did this, if I respond this way I think this could work' and etc.

It also works great as a conditioning tool, you become used to facing the top guys so you are prepared for it, mentally conditioned for a tough match.

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