OXNARD, Calif. – So when does training camp really start? Is it when the team arrives as it did last Thursday? Or the first press conference on the next Friday or maybe the first practice on Saturday?
Well, there could be a strong case for Monday, because that's when the pads actually came on. And that gives everyone a real look at actual football, which was on display in the afternoon practice.
Here are some highlights from Monday's first practice:
- Time will tell what the Cowboys have in veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn, but if Monday's practice was any indication, he'll have his hands more than full with Tyron Smith. The left tackle looked as dominant as ever, especially in one-on-one drills where the two were pitted against each other. "He's the best in the league," Quinn said of Smith. "I knew it wouldn't be easy."
- Smith welcomes the challenge of an experience player to face every day. "I've been against Quinn before and every time I go against him it's fun," he said. "But also at the same time we help each other out and try to get better."
- It's easy for receivers to stand out in training camp, but Reggie Davis took it to a higher level. The third-year wideout from Georgia made the catch of the day, diving for a long ball from Cooper Rush and holding on to the catch despite contested coverage. Davis also got a look with the first-team during seven-on-seven reps, and he made a nifty catch from Dak Prescott on a ball over the middle. Davis made several plays like this during OTAs, so it's encouraging to see him carrying it forward.
- The rookies deserve a mention, too. Both Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton made standout plays when given the opportunity. Johnson burned Chris Westry deep for a long touchdown during team drills, while Guyton got behind his coverage and hauled in a long touchdown of his own. Both guys possess top-tier speed, and it was on display Monday.
- Maybe the best hands of the day came from a defensive end – rookie defensive end Joe Jackson, to be exact. During the final period of the afternoon, Jackson dropped in coverage for the second-team defense and turned around just in time to see a pass bounce off Rico Gathers on a slant route. The ball bounced into the air right in front of Jackson, and he nabbed it and started rumbling the other way for a nice takeaway.
- Tony Pollard didn't get all the work with the first-team, but he did seem to stand out when he was in the lineup. The speedy tail back got opportunities to carry the ball, but he also motioned out wide toward receiver and shifted across the formation on a number of plays, including a nifty misdirection screen. This is what the Cowboys said they wanted to do with the rookie, and it's fun to see all the different possibilities.
- Kicking for the second time in camp, Brett Maher again made 5 of 6 field goal attempts. He connected from 34, 36, It looked like a clean sweep for three offensive line starters in the "compete" period. Tyron Smith, Connor Williams and Zack Martin appeared to win one-on-one matchups against Robert Quinn, Daniel Ross and Maliek Collins, respectively.
- A bright spot for the defensive line in the one-on-one pass rush drills: Dorance Armstrong. With DeMarcus Lawrence still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, the second-year pro has gotten some first-team reps at left defensive end. He showed an explosive first step in consecutive one-on-one matchups against Cameron Fleming.