Camping with the Dallas Cowboys: Hasta la vista California

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Garrett Gilbert (Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Garrett Gilbert (Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports) /

As soon as it began for the Dallas Cowboys, it is now over. It is crazy to believe, but the California portion of the 2021 training camp has officially commenced.

After returning from Canton, the Dallas Cowboys had a pseudo “second” preseason game, hooking up with Los Angeles Rams for a Saturday joint practice. This was a good indication of where Dallas is this early on as most people expect the Rams to make some noise in the NFC and the Cowboys more than held their own.

While two All-Pro offensive linemen were held out of the one-on-one portion of practice, right tackle La’el Collins neutralized pass rusher Leonard Floyd. More impressively, guard Connor Williams easily won both his reps against all-World defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The wins were so clear, Donald literally started a fight two plays later when the offense faced off against the defense.

Speaking of those series, the Dallas Cowboys receivers did quite well, capped off by CeeDee Lamb beating superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey a couple of times, including one for a score. Michael Gallup also had an impressive touchdown, taking the ball high over the cornerback’s head which would have qualified for a “You Got Mossed” segment on ESPN if it was a real game.

Defensively, slot corner Maurice Canady continued his impressive camp, snatching a pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford. Still, it was not all rosy for the Boys.

With no Dak Prescott at quarterback, by and large, the Rams defense had a strong day against the Dallas backups. Donald and Ramsey had their share of wins while Cowboys’ linebacker Jaylon Smith got dusted on a crossing route for an easy touchdown.

Wednesday featured a walkthrough and the debut of this team on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” “Practice” had a little extra juice with receiver Amari Cooper coming off the PUP list and catching passes off to the side from none other Prescott. This marked the first time in a while either had any legit work.

As for the show, the biggest takeaways I had were as follows:

  • Say what you will about owner Jerry Jones, but it is clear that the last quarter-century of “failure” weighs heavy on him. He spoke like a man who has turned over every rock and still can’t find what he’s after. On the flip side, he exhibits the passion of a man who is in no mindset to give up though.
  • Prescott was featured early, clearly chomping at the bit for every last rep. One has to wonder if the desire, while honorable, did not factor in his need to be shut down due to a shoulder strain.
  • The biggest nugget of info we were provided is that it is almost a certainty that running back Ezekiel Elliott will see no preseason reps. It is also clear that he is in much better shape than last year’s camp.
  • The show wrapped up with a feature on rookie linebacker Micah Parsons. Obviously, the skills are there but what you have to be over the moon about is his desire to be great. Like Prescott, he wants all the reps and he wants to be great. Even when he makes a mistake, he comes back with a big play. He was even legit disappointed to have an early night in Canton.

The last practice in Oxnard featured more throwing from Prescott, although still nothing taxing. Tight end Dalton Schultz sprained an ankle, adding himself to the ever-growing list of players unlike to play Friday at Arizona.

Beyond another stellar day from rookie cornerback Nashon Wright, the vibe of practice left a lot to be desired. These things tend to happen as we hit the middle of training camp, especially for a team that splits camp between two locations.

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Well, that wraps up the California portion of the Dallas Cowboys preseason. My next update from camp will come early next week with features of Friday’s game and a return to The Star in Frisco.