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Five observations from Cowboys training camp: Defense rules the day

The defense looked good up the middle, and won the turnover battle, but the offense had standout players too.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The third practice of camp marked the first practice in pads, and the defense carried the day against a somewhat sloppy offense.

Jaylon Smith's status continues to dominate the headlines, Lucky Whitehead's status continues being milked for the very last clicks, and David Irving's missing nipple-ring provided headline opportunities for those confused by what was happening on the practice field.

None of that is the subject of our five observations from yesterday's practice:

Big emphasis on turnovers by the defense

Over the first two days, and again at the start of the third day, there was a big emphasis on stripping/punching out the ball for the linebackers and the secondary in position drills. And those punches were not of the Hello Kitty variety, they were violent punches.

And it seems to have paid off, at least today:

  • A combo of DE Damontre Moore and CB Nolan Carroll stripped Terrance Williams of the ball after a catch, but the ball bounced out of bounds.
  • LB Darnell Leslie stripped TE Blake Jarwin of a ball and returned it up the field.
  • LB Joseph Jones stripped FB Keith Smith of the ball after a sort dumpoff from Kellen Moore. Defense recovered the ball.
  • CB Chidobe Awuzie had an interception off of Dak Prescott.

Best day so far for Maliek Collins and Anthony Hitchens.

Collins and Hitchens up the middle proved too much to handle for the offense on running plays. Collins got upfield regularly against the run, and Hitchens was running free in the behind the defensive line. Combined they proved very disruptive against the run, so much so that Ezekiel Elliott didn't have a lot of highlight plays.

Taco Charlton had a full day.

With Tyrone Crawford sitting out practice, Taco Charlton started out with the first team at LDE. Later in practice, when the team rested DeMarcus Lawrence at RDE, Charlton shared first-team reps with Damontre Moore at RDE.

Charlton did about as well as can be expected from a rookie. He looked a little better against La'el Collins at LDE, especially in the individual compete period where he was able to get past Collins to give the defense a win, and had a little more trouble against Tyron Smith. He did have a couple of nice getoffs, and looked good in some 1-on-1 battles. And that's pretty much what you're looking for from a rookie: he isn't going to consistently beat either Tyron Smith or La'el Collins, but getting a few good plays each day is the way to go.

Alfred Morris looked like the best running back on Wednesday.

Wit Elliott stymied by pressure up the middle, and Darren McFadden taking a veteran day, Morris got a lot of quality with the second team and looked good in the process.

Morris caught some balls out of the backfield and was able to find the holes on running plays. Hard to say how far those runs might have gone, as the RBs are not tackled to the ground, but he looked quick out of the hole.

Dak Prescott looked good.

Stat of the day: Dak Prescott went 11-of-15 on the day, which is good for the first padded practice of the year. His throws were sharp and on target, he connected with many of his receivers (despite Dez Bryant and Jason Witten sitting out), and he looked completely in control of the huddle.

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