Sun. Practice Recap: Defense Responds To Offense's Challenge On The Goal Line

OXNARD, Calif. – It wasn't hard to pinpoint the biggest moment of the Blue-White Scrimmage on Sunday, as it featured a touchdown, a fumble and a return for another touchdown – all in one controversial play.

After being dominated in goal line practice on Saturday, the Dallas defense lined up against its offensive counterpart on the one-yard line, determined to atone for its miscues. Across the line, Tony Romo handed off to Joseph Randle, who dove over the line and thrust the ball toward the goal line.

"Touchdown," Randle said. "Ain't no doubt about it."

Well, not quite. As the ball went forward, the Cowboys' linebackers knocked it out, where Barry Church scooped it up. Despite being five yards deep in the end zone, Church skirted around Gavin Escobar and outran Tony Romo in a situation that he said "definitely" would have been a scoop and score.

"Gavin, I just left him in the dust, and then I saw Romo coming up out of nowhere," Church said. "I was going to hit him with the stiff arm, but then I thought about it, like 'Nah, maybe I shouldn't stiff arm our quarterback.' I just kind of out ran him to the edge, but if he would have caught me, I would have never heard the end of it."

The referees wound up ruling touchdown, much to the defense's dismay. Sean Lee joked that the practice fields needed instant replay – though it did nothing to take the points off the board. Regardless, it was an improvement from Saturday.

"Yesterday, I felt like the offense pretty much dominated us – definitely on the goal line," Church said. "So we came out here with a point to prove and played pretty well."

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett agreed with that assessment after practice – though not too enthusiastically.

"We challenged our defense last night in our meetings and explained to them why they were dominated, and there were a number of reasons," he said. "We tried to address those, and we were crystal clear about what we want and what we expect, and we anticipated them to respond the right way.

"It was not a perfect day for the defense by any means, but they certainly responded the right way and play a lot better."

Quick Hits

IIn addition to pre-existing injuries, several Cowboys players sat out of the scrimmage day with various ailments. Tyler Patmon and Nick Hayden both sat out for the defense, while Ron Leary sat out for the offense with a tweaked back. Garrett said all three are day-to-day.

Garrett declined to elaborate on whether playing time Sunday was indicative of what kind of playing time to expect when the team faces San Diego in its preseason opener on Thursday. "We'll look at it day-by-day. We won't get into who is playing when and how much for a couple days now."

Jameill Showers got a chance to take reps with the third team offense at practice – ahead of Dustin Vaughan. Both Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said it wasn't a demotion for Vaughan, so much as it was a chance to get Showers ready for the Chargers game. "Dustin has had primarily most of the three reps, and you never know what's going to happen in a preseason game," Linehan said. "We didn't want (Showers) to go out there without having done it before."

With Leary sitting out, La'el Collins got another chance to play left guard with the first-team offense. "It's always telling to see how they respond, and it's how they respond to the guys they're playing with and the guys they're playing against," Garrett said.

Notable Standouts

Cole Beasley – Beasley continues to stand out at practice, and he had an even bigger chance to flash with Dez Bryant sitting out for the day. Romo found Beasley several times during two-minute drill and full-team work, and the defense – as usual – had a tough time covering him. Jason Witten has long been called Romo's security blanket, but it's apparent the type of trust that has developed between the quarterback and his slot receiver.

Barry Church – On top of his opportunistic fumble recovery – or near fumble recovery, at least – Church made another great play down near the goal line. Gavin Escobar victimized Church in the one-on-one compete period on Saturday, so it wasn't a surprise to see the offense call his number again on Sunday. Escobar split out wide from the five-yard line and went toward the corner on a fade route, but Church shifted over and blanketed him, breaking up the touchdown in the process.[embeddedad0]

Andrew Gachkar – Sunday was one of the first times in this camp that the newly-acquired free agent had a chance to shine. In two-minute drill for the second-team offense, Gachkar read Brandon Weeden's eyes all the way across the field and intercepted him on a crossing route. It killed the drive and brought a loud ovation from his defensive teammates.

Play of the Day

In fairness, the play of the day was the fumble controversy down on the goal line. But Randle made another play worth mentioning, when he took a handoff from Romo to the right side. He cut past right tackle Darrion Weems – replacing Doug Free for the day – and collided with Jack Crawford. It was a monstrous collision, and Randle absolutely got the better of it, dropping the defensive end to the ground. He shifted forward for another six yards before he was eventually brought down inside the five-yard line.

Transactions: 

Aug. 8 – Signed guard Cody Clay

Aug. 8 – Waived LB Will Smith

Aug. 4 – Signed TE Brandon Barden.

Aug. 4 – Released TE Ray Hamilton.

Aug. 3 – Signed LB Ka'Lial Glaud, LB Jonathan Brown

Injury Report:

Missed Practice: 

OG Ronald Leary (back)

DT Nick Hayden (rib)

CB Tyler Patmon (hip)

WR Dez Bryant (ankle)

CB Orlando Scandrick (knee)

CB Brandon Carr (hand)

DE Kenneth Boatright (neck)

OT Doug Free (rest)

RB Lance Dunbar (ankle)

DT Terrell McClain (bone bruise/hamstring)

RB Darren McFadden (hamstring)

OL Chaz Green (hip)

LB Mark Nzeocha (knee)

LB Rolando McClain (knee)

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