OXNARD, Calif. – For the most part, the last practice before padded work looked like a win for the Cowboys defense.
All three levels of defense made impactful plays against the offense Tuesday, including a handful of interceptions from the secondary.
"We're going to fly around. No fly zone. We're going to call it 'airplane mode,'" rookie cornerback Kelvin Joseph said.
On to the highlights from Tuesday's no-pads session:
- He hasn't been here long, but Tuesday looked like Damontae Kazee's best day in a Cowboys uniform. Working predominantly as a starting safety, he was active all over the field during the defense's strong day. The highlight might have been the best play of the entire day, as he perfectly read and broke on a pass from Dak Prescott over the middle of the field. Prescott was looking for Malik Turner on a slant, only for Kazee to step in front of the pass and take it the other way for a touchdown. It was the type of playmaking the Cowboys are hoping to see plenty more of from the veteran.
- Cornerbacks Trevon Diggs and Maurice Canady also recorded interceptions against Prescott in situational team drills. Diggs' pick was in tight quarters in the end zone as Prescott looked for wide receiver Noah Brown against the sideline. Canady made a diving interception on a crossing route intended for wide receiver Cedrick Wilson.
- Adding size and length was a clear emphasis with the Cowboys' offseason moves on the defensive line, and that was on display Tuesday. Rookie Quinton Bohanna and veteran Brent Urban batted down multiple passes at the line of scrimmage. Bohanna, listed at 330 pounds, also showed good quickness getting off the snap and in pursuit of tackles. Fourth-year defensive end Dorance Armstrong added a couple of would-be sacks, taking advantage of extra reps while star passer DeMarcus Lawrence starts camp on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list.
- Practice took a scary turn during red zone work when Prescott looked for Michael Gallup down the near sideline. Gallup and Trevon Diggs fought each other all the way down the field, with Diggs eventually breaking the pass up in the back corner of the end zone. The problem showed up when Gallup ran out of real estate and charged full speed toward the safety fence that circles the field. With nowhere else to go, Gallup somersaulted over the fence and into the restraining area where reporters watch practice. Gallup wound up being OK and returned to practice, but it provided a bit of a scare.
- Safety Malik Hooker, who signed his contract early Tuesday morning after clearing all COVID-19 protocols, was at practice later in the morning. He stood with his new teammates in the secondary all through practice and afterwards when they caught passes from the JUGS machine. Hooker is wearing No. 28, the highest-profile safety to wear the number since Darren Woodson, a Ring of Honor member and the team's all-time leading tackler.
- At the end of the two-minute drill, Blake Jarwin scored a touchdown over the middle, prompting a big celebration from his offensive teammates, who understand fully how tough the journey back has been since the ACL injury. But not to be outdone, on the next play as the No. 2 offense took over the red-zone drills, Jarwin's backup Dalton Schultz made a similar play, scoring a touchdown over the middle as well.
- Zack Martin was at practice Tuesday and participated in the early work, but he once again sat out of team drills, giving Brandon Knight an opportunity to work at right guard. Martin spoke to reporters after practice and said it's all part of his plan with the training staff to limit the stress on his body heading into the season. Jourdan Lewis also sat out of practice after doing some rehab work at the start of the day. It's not currently clear what that issue is.
- Backup quarterback Cooper Rush returned to practice after dealing with back spasms the previous two days but did not appear to take any team drill reps. Prescott, Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci handled most of the work.