OXNARD, Calif. – Tuesday felt like a noticeable shift in tone as the Cowboys prepare for the first preseason game of the year.
With their flight to Canton, Ohio, leaving on Wednesday afternoon, the Cowboys took the pads off for their last practice before Thursday's Hall of Fame Game. They still worked through many of the same drills as usual, including a competitive seven-on-seven period and a full team period, but things felt a bit dialed down after a three-day stretch of fully padded practices.
At the tail end of practice, the first, second and third-stringers all split into group for a preparatory walkthrough. Obviously, game planning for a preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers is going to look different than a regular season game, but the coaching staff still worked the team through the different looks they can expect to see from Pittsburgh's offense and defense.
It's not much to go on in terms of what to expect on Thursday night, but it is a clear sign that the Cowboys are one step closer to playing a game.
Here are some other notes from Tuesday's practice:
- It's not easy to evaluate runners in practice, with or without pads. But Ezekiel Elliott has ripped off some nice runs this week, including another on Tuesday when he busted through the line in team drills untouched to the end zone from about 25 yards out.
- Well, he did it again. CeeDee Lamb's latest touchdown was a perfectly-placed deep ball from quarterback Garrett Gilbert right into Lamb's hands down the left sideline for about a 50-yard score. Cornerback Trevon Diggs has had tight coverage on Lamb for the majority of these practices, but Lamb got a half-step ahead and Garrett put the ball where only he could get it.
- A few play earlier, Diggs almost intercepted Gilbert in the same spot in the end zone, but the ball went through his hands. Still, it was outstanding coverage downfield on tight end Blake Jarwin.
- Rookie defensive tackle Quinton Bohanna will be among the young players to watch in Thursday's preseason opener, and he showed quickness on a would-be sack against quarterback Ben DiNucci.
- Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (back) was taken off the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Tuesday but did not take part in drills. The veteran pass rusher says he's in the last stage of his rehab process before returning to practice.
- Second-year defensive end Bradlee Anae returned to practice after doing rehab work on the side in recent days.
- Offensive tackle Josh Ball missed practice with an ankle injury. Ball suffered the setback on Sunday and was seen with a walking boot. He's unlikely to make the trip to Canton, probably staying back to rehab.