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Diving into practice #4 of Cowboys 2021 training camp

Here’s a look at what was seen, and what it means.

Dallas Cowboys Training Camp
The defense had the most highlights, but Blake Jarwin put up some of his own.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

We are really looking forward to the pads coming on for the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday. So far the training camp practices have all been unpadded, which can be both limiting and misleading in trying to get a read on this year’s team. Still, there has been a lot in the first four sessions, and Tuesday’s fourth practice was no exception. I joined @rjochoa and @DaveSturchio to discuss things on the Blogging the Boys YouTube channel.

Here are some of the topics we addressed.

Finally, some depth in the secondary

The big news even before practice was the signing of free agent safety Malik Hooker. He was present for warmups, but did not participate further as the team brings him along deliberately. It was a key development anyway, as now the team actually has two viable free safeties on the roster. While some pointed to the new competition at the position, and Damontae Kazee certainly seemed to crank it up a notch as a result, the real impact is that the chances of having a reliable FS for all the games just went up.

There has been criticism for Dallas going after not one but two players that are coming off of season-ending injuries. So far, Kazee has shown no signs of lingering problems, and presumably Hooker would not have been added if he was not medically ready to go. Having both is not just depth, but quality depth. For a position that has been largely neglected by the Cowboys, it is a very encouraging sign.

That was not the only place better depth seems to be emerging. Slot cornerback Jourdan Lewis did not practice, and is apparently dealing with some minor injury as he was working with the training staff. Maurice Canady stepped in for him, and immediately put up a highlight.

He was joined by Kazee and Trevon Diggs in picking off Dak Prescott during team reps. Overall, the practice was a win for the defense.

But the offense had its moments

While Prescott did throw those picks, he was also probably forcing things a bit more than he would in a game situation. Meanwhile, CeeDee Lamb kept doing CeeDee Lamb things. But the feel-good highlights came from Blake Jarwin, who was lost for the season in the first game of 2020. He looks like he is all the way back.

The Cowboys have an enviable situation in apparently having two legitimate starting-level tight ends. Not only does that mean that Kellen Moore may be able to get a bit creative with his play designs, but there is real depth here. Dalton Schultz proved that last year when he was one of the rare good things to emerge from that disastrous season.

Don’t worry about who will start. Be thankful that it may not really make much of a difference, and in a good way.

The scare

The most unfortunate part of camp is that there always seem to be injuries to important players. For a moment, it looked like that could be happening to Michael Gallup.

Fortunately, he was evidently unharmed, getting back on the field after a brief time with the training staff. Still it was a moment that put our hearts in our throats. The practice fields at Oxnard are, as this shows, a bit constrained. Sticking there is a tradeoff to avoid the triple digit temperatures in Dallas. Mike McCarthy much prefers to work on grass in practice. That is just not tenable in the summer heat in Texas, given that the grass field at the Star is outdoors. But the quality of the fields in Oxnard have also come in for some criticism.

We just have to cross out fingers and hope the team avoids serious harm. On a related note, OL Mitch Hyatt was put on injured reserve in the requisite roster move to open Hooker’s spot. It is sad for him to miss another season, but at least he was not released outright.

There was also a report that Zack Martin is dealing with an ankle problem, but he was a full participant in practice, so there seems to be hope it is not a serious concern. We still worry after what happened last year.

Big Q shows up

Three different times, Quinton Bohanna showed up.

  • First, he tracked down Tony Pollard on a running play. This is a real NT, listed at 330 pounds, corralling a shifty, speedy running back. That is impressive athleticism at any size, not to mention Bohanna’s.
  • Then he showed off his length, batting a pass down at the line of scrimmage.
  • Finally, he probably would have had a sack of Ben DiNucci. The lack of pass rush from the interior defensive line was yet another problem from last year. With Neville Gallimore off to a very good start and Osa Odighizuwa also flashing, that may be on its way to being solved.

But are we getting too pumped?

Almost every fan base gets its hopes up in camp. Most are very overdone.

Still, there does seem to be some real fire to all the smoke this year. Micah Parsons is looking very good. Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright seem worthy additions at cornerback. Dan Quinn is having a visible effect on the defense, which practiced with admirable intensity on Tuesday. And above all, Dak is back, along with the injured offensive linemen. Add in a fired up and slimmed down Ezekiel Elliott, and there are data points that are hard to dismiss.

We won’t really find out until the regular season kicks off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which promises to be a real test. But with padded practices beginning we should start to get a better idea of these things. Here’s hoping for much more good news than bad.

Dave Sturchio, RJ Ochoa, and I discussed our takeaways from Tuesday’s practice during a livestream on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. Please consider subscribe to the channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos. We have one recapping every practice and will be livestreaming a lot throughout the season, including after every episode of Hard Knocks starting in a few weeks.