FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys billed this as one of the premier practices of training camp, and it delivered on the hype.
In their first session since returning from California, the team conducted a spirited practice in front of a sizable indoor crowd. Maybe it was the extra energy, but the evening saw plenty of exciting plays on both sides of the ball.
Here are some standout notes from the press box inside Ford Center:
- Malik Hooker announced himself in style in his first padded practice of the year. The coaching staff ramped the veteran safety up toward full contact, and he delivered with a takeaway. It wasn't the most amazing play of his career, but he it was a great example of being around the ball. During team period, Ben DiNucci fired inside on a slant, only to see the ball broken up and batted into the air by Nahshon Wright. With the pass fluttering 10 yards over the field, Hooker broke from center field and ran under it. With only offensive linemen and DiNucci in position to trail the play, it was an easy pick-six.
- The offense saved the best part of its day for the two-minute drill that concluded practice. Garrett Gilbert opened things up with completions to Blake Jarwin and Michael Gallup. After an offside flag moved things another five yards, Gilbert uncorked a go ball toward CeeDee Lamb, drawing a defensive pass interference penalty that moved the offense to the goal line. The starting defense did its best to buckle down by forcing back-to-back incompletions. But on third-and-goal, Gilbert looked toward Lamb again and found him for the acrobatic game-winner.
- The second-team offense wasn't to be outdone. Cooper Rush had a hard time finding an open man in the early going, but Simi Fehoko managed to create some solid separation on a deep comeback on a crucial 3rd-and-10 that moved the ball into the red zone. From there, Rush managed to draw the entire defensive line offside, which gave him a free crack at the end zone. He made the most of the opportunity, lofting a ball to Fehoko in traffic. It's probably not a throw Rush would've tried without the flag, but Fehoko used his 6'4 frame to go up for the ball and the game-winning touchdown.
- Monday was one of the more active days of Kelvin Joseph's summer. The rookie corner was active throughout practice, getting his hands on several footballs and preventing multiple completions. His best play of the day was unfortunately waved off, as he pushed off his receiver in jumping in front of a slant route for an athletic interception. It might not have counted, but it did display some impressive ball skills.
- Monday looked like a big 'win' for the pass rush. The defensive front seven delivered pressure early and often, starting with rookie linebacker Micah Parsons' would-be sack on quarterback Garrett Gilbert during a "Mojo Moment" end-of-game drill. In team work, defensive end Dorance Armstrong (coming off an impressive performance against the Cardinals) got around left tackle Tyron Smith with a quick first step. Randy Gregory pushed the pocket from the other defensive end spot. So did rookie tackle Osa Odighizuwa, who took some first-team reps in place of injured starter Neville Gallimore (elbow).
- Cornerback Trevon Diggs has drawn the toughest assignment of training camp: covering CeeDee Lamb, who has made at least one highlight-reel play in every practice. But Diggs has won some battles too. On one particular team rep Monday, he gave up a sideline catch to Lamb but punched the ball out for the second takeaway of practice.
- Backup offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe returned to team drills after exiting last Friday's game with what appeared to be a knee issue. Nsehke has worked at both the left and right side as he competes for the swing tackle job with second-year veteran Terence Steele.
- The Cowboys' tight ends deserve a mention. Jarwin had a solid day with the key reception during two-minute drill, and he also scored from 35 yards out on pretty route down the middle. Jeremy Sprinkle also had a big play, as he leaked out the left side of the formation and got behind the defense for a wide open, 40-yard touchdown.
- The Cowboys, and the fans in attendance, got the first Amari Cooper sighting of training camp. The wide receiver, who is rehabbing ankle surgery in the offseason, didn't get many reps on the night. But he caught an inside slant over the middle for a nice gain in team drills, prompting the expected "Coooooooooppp" chant from the crowd.
- It's unlikely if Cooper will get any reps in the preseason. But if the Cowboys play him, it'll probably be for a few snaps Saturday against Houston.
- Before the practice, head coach Mike McCarthy dismissed any talk about a competition for the starting center spot, all but stating Tyler Biadasz would be the starter against the Bucs. While Connor Williams got the start against Arizona last week, he had a couple of errant snaps that eventually stalled the drive. Williams got more work as a backup center but it seems as if he'll be the starting left guard, next to Biadasz.
- Michael Gallup had a big drop in last week's preseason game in Arizona, but he was on point several times Monday night. He caught a few passes down the field, including a 50+ yard bomb from Garrett Gilbert, who split two defenders with a heave down the field to Gallup, who got behind the defense.