OXNARD, Calif. – Logic says the offense should be favored in a drill that doesn't feature a pass rush.
That's the advantage of seven-on-seven drills. The quarterback and his skill players go against the defensive back seven in a test of route running and coverage. History says the offense usually wins.
That's what stood out about the Cowboys' practice on Saturday evening, as the Dallas defense dominated the offense during a red zone seven-on-seven period.
It's worth noting that the offense was severely depleted. Ezekiel Elliott is absent for obvious reasons, while Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb and Jason Witten all sat out of practice. Even still, the defense was impressive in not allowing a single touchdown.
"Coach always says 'Give us a blade of grass and we're going to defend it,'" said Xavier Woods. "No matter if we give up the whole field, once we get down there it's time to lock in, time to be great, time to not give up any points."
That's exactly what happened in this instance. Technically, Dak Prescott found Tavon Austin for a touchdown at the tail end of the period – but the throw went well across his body after a nine-second scramble. To quote Woods himself, it was a "fluke."
It looks like evidence of the progress the Cowboys' defense is making. Saturday was the third-straight day they made it hard on the offense, and shutting out the seven-on-seven period might be their most impressive accomplishment to date.
Don't pat them on the back just yet, though. Apparently, there's more they can do.
"You'd be surprised how many little things, even though they didn't score a touchdown, that we could've gotten better at," said Chidobe Awuzie. "It feels good that they didn't score – that's the bare minimum, though. We want to push to be excellent and really try to clean up the little details that we messed up on."
Here are some more notes from Saturday's afternoon practice:
- Woods continues to look like a playmaker at his free safety spot. During team period, he lined up in a two-high set and dropped deep to cover. Thinking he had single coverage, Prescott uncorked a long ball toward Jon'Vea Johnson – which was a mistake. Woods read the play the whole way, hauling toward the sideline as soon as the ball left Prescott's hand. The result was an easy interception – Woods' second of camp.
- While the Cowboys might be down in numbers with their depth at corner, one of the guys fighting for a spot took a huge step in the right direction Saturday. Donovan Olumba was all over the field, making plays, breaking up passes and even getting an interception in team period.
"Yeah, it was pretty good," Olumba said of his practice. "Every single day I've got to keep bringing it. But (this day) helps my confidence."
Olumba has been battling with rookie Mike Jackson for second-team reps. The Cowboys are playing without injured starter Byron Jones and backup C.J. Goodwin, which allows players such as Olumba to get more snaps during camp.
"Whenever I get in there, I just try to do my best for the team," said Olumba, who spent all of last year on the Cowboys' practice squad. "Whatever role they want me to play, I'm willing to do."
- With Amari Cooper sitting out of practice with a heel injury, the Cowboys were a bit shorthanded at receiver, coupled with the fact Randall Cobb was getting a rest day.
That opened the door for Michael Gallup to make a few nice plays, but also allowed the crowded group in the second wave of receivers to get needed snaps. Tavon Austin, Jon'Vea Johnson and Reggie Davis all worked with the first unit on Saturday.
- Credit to Brett Maher for an outstanding afternoon. He delivered the first perfect performance of this year's camp by nailing all six of his kicks during the special teams period. He also made three field goals during the red zone period, brining his tally to 9-of-9 for the day.