Cowboys owner Jerry Jones knows he'll be judged on a pair of against-the-grain moves he made this offseason to improve the Dallas defense.
After signing former Panthers star Greg Hardy to a one-year deal in March, Jones and the 'Boys took a chance on drafting Randy Gregory in the second round. Both players have impressed during training camp.
"I just can't say enough about (Hardy)," Jones told KRLD-FM, per Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News. "He brings just exceptional, exceptional position flex. He can go inside or out. He gives you everything you want on your pass rush."
Jones called Hardy an "outstanding" addition to the locker room, too. Coming off last year's lengthy suspension, Hardy has emerged in Dallas "with a passion of some of the top passionate players we've ever had around here," Jones said, adding: "Boy, he makes a difference."
The praise for Hardy lines up with encouraging reports about the 2013 Pro Bowler's "explosive" play at both end and tackle in practice sessions, where the veteran has even started coaching D-line technique to teammates, with Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noting "they respect his football IQ" that much.
Jones was equally sunny on the development of Gregory, who tumbled down draft boards after he tested positive at the NFL Scouting Combine for marijuana. Before the draft, NFL Media's Mike Mayock called Gregory an "undeniable top-10 talent," while ESPN's Louis Riddick said Gregory displayed the "natural leverage and instinctive 'feel'" as a pass rusher in Thursday's preseason debut against the San Diego Chargers.
Jones labeled the pairing of Gregory and last year's second-rounder, DeMarcus Lawrence, as "absolutely essential" for the Dallas pass rush, saying: "They're just like the clouds parting and the light coming through in terms of what it means to our team and certainly our defense." Jones went on to call Gregory "unique" and Lawrence a "better player than we thought he was when we drafted him."
There's plenty of moving parts here -- and an owner in Jones known for hyperbole -- but Dallas deserves credit for aggressively revamping its cast of quarterback chasers. The trio of Lawrence, Hardy and Gregory should bring new life to a defense that finished 28th in the league last season with just 28 sacks.
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