OXNARD, Calif. – Just when it looked like training camp was winding toward a peaceful conclusion, things got feisty.
The 2016 edition of the Cowboys' training camp has been unmarred by fighting, but that almost went out the window at a chippy practice on Tuesday afternoon. From the time the Cowboys went into full-team reps at the halfway point of practice, the offense and defense had been chirping at each other.
That only escalated during the 7-on-7 portion of the day, when defenders began trash talking after incomplete passes. Dez Bryant responded in kind – telling each of the starting defensive backs "You can't guard me."
"I ain't going to back down to nobody," said Orlando Scandrick after practice. "I have so much respect for him. I'm going to come out here and get better."
What started out as spirited trash talk almost turned into a full-fledged ordeal while the Cowboys went through red zone drills. Morris Claiborne dove to intercept a low-thrown ball by Tony Romo, and in the process he tripped Bryant – who didn't appreciate it at all.
The two players had to be separated after the play, and Bryant continued to jaw into the remainder of practice. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, as the Cowboys definitely drew off the energy provided by it.
"I think the team feeds off his passion and whenever you see a guy that is so passionate about the game, it kind of inspires you to go out and play," said Ezekiel Elliott.
It could have developed into a much less productive practice. But such as it is, Scandrick said the Cowboys should thrive off the competitive personalities on display.
"This team went from winning 12 games to winning four games. The pressure is on," he said. "We have to get back to who we are. And that's part of our identity. We're going to be a physical football team. We're going to play hard. We're not going to back down from nobody."
- The defense's feistiness was spurred in part by a pretty poor showing from the offense. Both Tony Romo and Dak Prescott were off at times, throwing incomplete at multiple points during different part of practice. Just before Bryant and Claiborne collided, the second-team defense broke up a fade route intended for Devin Street – and Claiborne taunted the offense by throwing the incomplete ball back in their direction. That was the type of competitiveness on display all afternoon.
- Another case-in-point: when the offense got down near the goal line, the defense put its no-tackling guidelines away for a minute. Damien Wilson popped Darius Jackson loudly just outside the end zone, putting the rookie running back in the dirt with quite a bit of contact. The red zone period of practice was about as spirited as training camp has been this month.
- Kyle Wilber got some reps in the 1-on-1 portion of practice as a pass rusher, which makes sense when you consider the problems facing the Dallas defensive line. With David Irving leaving practice with a groin injury, the Cowboys could be left with as few as five defensive linemen for Friday's preseason game against Miami.
- Ezekiel Elliott practiced for the first time in two weeks – albeit in a limited fashion. Elliott went through individual drills with the running backs, but he sat out of the competitive portions of the afternoon. Alfred Morris continues to work with the first-team offense.
Dez Bryant –Bryant didn't really have any highlight plays on Tuesday, but he was such an integral part of what went down at practice. The All-Pro wide out clearly wasn't happy with the way the afternoon ended, as he was asking those around him "why did we end practice like that?" As usual, Bryant tends to set the tone for those around him – both on offense and defense.
Arjen Colquhoun –There's so many guys on this roster to keep track of, it's only fair to shout someone out when they make a play from the fringe. Colquhoun has gotten next-to-no attention during camp, but he jumped into the spotlight when he picked off Dak Prescott on a fade in the end zone. It was one of several picks for the defense on a productive day.
Darius Jackson– As noted, Ezekiel Elliott didn't participate in full-team reps, which left plenty of work for Jackson to do. He carried the ball with quickness and decisiveness against the second-team defense. Credit to him – he took multiple hard shots in the process and still got the job done.
Play of the Day
Barry Church made a play that perfectly encapsulated the sloppiness of the day. In the red zone period, Tony Romo looked for Cole Beasley on an out route and tried to sandwich the ball between Orlando Scandrick and Church – who were bracketing the slot receiver. Romo missed badly on the throw, and Church was waiting to intercept it for an easy pick-six. The only problem was that, when the defense got done celebrating, they found out they'd been flagged for offsides. The play was negated.
Unofficial Injury Report
CB Anthony Brown (hamstring)
DE Charles Tapper (back)
LB Andrew Gachkar (thumb)
QB Kellen Moore (fibula)
WR Chris Brown(foot)
RB Darren McFadden (elbow; Active/NFI)
RB Lance Dunbar (knee; Active/PUP)
LB Jaylon Smith (knee; Active/NFI)
TE James Hanna (knee; Active/PUP)
Returned to Practice
RB Ezekiel Elliott (hamstring)
DEDavid Irving (groin)
Wednesday, August 17
10:45 a.m. (PDT) Practice
1:15 p.m. (PDT) Coach Garrett press conference
5:00 p.m. (PDT) Walk through
Thursday, August 18
No availability Break Camp/team travels to Dallas