OXNARD, Calif. – Across the Cowboys' roster, Jason Garrett's favorite refrain continues to ring true: injuries provide opportunities.
That's already the case in the defensive secondary after the loss of Orlando Scandrick. It will also be the case at wide receiver, where an injury to Devin Street will open the door for those behind him.
Street had been nursing an ankle sprain in the early going of camp, and he re-aggravated the problem during Tuesday's practice. His timetable for return is unclear, but the Cowboys intend to be patient with the injury.
At the same time, the Cowboys' patience with one of their offseason signings is starting to pay off.
Through the early going of training camp, veteran wideout A.J. Jenkins looked likely to be one of the first players sent home. He looked uncomfortable and unproductive, and he didn't do much to stand out.
"You've just got to take an advantage of your opportunities," Jenkins said. "I've been fortunate enough to get cut and traded, so I kind of know how it is. You've got to just leave it all out here on the field and try to go out here and compete."
That didn't look like it would happen for Jenkins this summer. And then the switch appeared to flip for the 2012 first-round pick.
He began by making some clutch catches in practice. Then, he enjoyed the most productive night of any Dallas receiver last weekend in San Francisco, logging two catches for 40 yards. During this week's practices, he's maintaining that momentum.
"He's made a lot of progress in the last week," said wide receivers coach Derek Dooley. "He's started improving the week of practice before the Niners, he made a couple of plays there. And he picked up where he left off this week. He's made a lot of plays. He's getting a lot more comfortable out there. I'm looking forward to watching him more."
On Tuesday, Jenkins made one of the plays of training camp with a one-handed, overhead catch downfield. He followed it up Wednesday with a circus grab in the one-on-one period, and he added several more quality catches for good measure.
"Honestly, yeah. It feels like my confidence is rising," Jenkins said. "Me being in the playbook, me talking to Dez (Bryant) and Terrance (Williams) and Cole (Beasley) and guys like that – Street. It's going to get me going. But at the same time, every day is a new challenge. I'm going to try to keep it going."
The talent was obviously there, given that San Francisco saw fit to draft Jenkins No. 30 overall back in 2012. It didn't materialize during his one season with the 49ers, and he couldn't find consistency in two years with the Chiefs.[embeddedad0]
In his fourth NFL season, though, it appears to be showing through. The timing couldn't be better, as the Cowboys have a hobbled fourth receiver and a looming question mark in the fifth spot on the depth chart.
The opportunity is there. Now, it's on Jenkins to take advantage.
"The best thing I've come up with is that you've got to be consistent," Jenkins said. "Even though you had a good day yesterday, the only thing that matters now is tomorrow. You can't never just go off the glory of something that happened before – you've just got to keep grinding. It's like a new day."
- Wide receiver Dez Bryant continued to increase his practice participation in his return from the hamstring strain he suffered Aug. 6. He had two touchdowns in one-on-one drills and also got some team drill work.
- First-team left guard Ronald Leary also worked in team drills in his return from a sore back, giving the Cowboys four-fifths of their starting offensive line back together. Only right guard Zack Martin (stinger) was still doing conditioning work.
- Running back Darren McFadden returned to full practice participation after being limited to individual drills Tuesday due to neck stiffness. Joseph Randle continued to take first-team reps.
- The Cowboys' veterans aren't tolerating mental mistakes. When rookie defensive end Ryan Russell jumped offsides during a team drill, linebacker Sean Lee and safety Barry Church – both have served as captains over the last couple seasons – screamed for Russell to sit out the next rep.
- Actor Dean Cain attended practice.
Defensive Line –The offense had its moments, but Wednesday was a productive day for the Cowboys' D-Line. Quarterback Tony Romo had defenders in his face in team drills, with Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence and Nick Hayden penetrating the backfield for sacks on consecutive plays.
Antwan Goodley –The rookie receiver appears to be rounding into form in his return from hamstring injury. Goodley had multiple catches in one-on-one and team drills, including a diving grab from quarterback Dustin Vaughan.
Andrew Gachkar –The veteran linebacker was active in team drills as he continues getting extra reps while Anthony Hitchens recovers from a foot sprain. Gachkar had four tackles against the 49ers and has recently gotten first-team work at middle linebacker.
Play of the Day
Wide receiver Phil Bates has been on the roster for a week since signing after a workout on Aug. 20. The 25-year-old receiver, who has spent time with Seattle and Cleveland since going undrafted in 2012, turned heads in one-on-one pass drills Wednesday when he beat Corey White near the goal line for a diving one-handed touchdown catch.
Aug. 21 – Signed DT Carlif Taylor
Aug. 20 – Signed LB Dakorey Johnson, WR Phil Bates, WR Edmond Gates
Aug. 20 – Claimed CB Rod Sweeting
Aug. 20 – Released CB Brandon Smith, WR Reggie Dunn, WR Deontay Greenberry, RB Lache Seastrunk
Aug. 16 – Signed WR David Porter
Aug. 16 – Released WR George Farmer
Aug. 15 – Signed RBs Ben Malena, Michael Hill
Aug. 15 – Placed S Ray Vinopal on Waived/Injured
Unofficial Injury Report:
Returned to Practice:
G Ronald Leary (back)
WR Devin Street (foot/ankle)
QB Brandon Weeden (head)
WR David Porter (groin)
RB Michael Hill (head)
S Jeff Heath (head)
G Zack Martin (stinger)
LB Anthony Hitchens (foot)
DE Kenneth Boatright (neck)
OL Chaz Green (hip)
LB Mark Nzeocha (knee)
LB Rolando McClain (knee)
CB Orlando Scandrick (knee; out for season)