FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys will hold a training camp practice on Monday at The Star, marking the first public camp practice open to fans in Mike McCarthy’s two-year tenure as coach. Last year’s workouts were closed off to fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The hope is quarterback Dak Prescott will be on hand after he went through two throwing sessions in the team’s final two days at camp in Oxnard, California. He was the focus of the first episode of HBO’s 2021 season of “Hard Knocks” on the Cowboys, and he’ll most likely continue to have a starring role as his practice reps ramp up.
Prescott last threw a pass in 11-on-11 drills on July 27 and then was sidelined because of the latissimus strain in his right shoulder. Despite the Cowboys quarterback missing seven practices, he has continued to go through footwork drills, conditioning work and mental repetitions.
The quarterback provided an example of what he has been working on. Whenever Cowboys backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert would take to the line, once Prescott heard the play called, he would go through the same motions as Gilbert.
“I check the front and then I check the back end, see the rotation,” Prescott said. “Depending what the play is, if it’s a kill, make the kill or make the adjustments, and then we’re ready to go in my head. Then after that, from a view, I’m just trying to see the defense post-snap the best as I can and play the play as if I would. ‘Boom,’ I’ll say. ‘Throw it there.’
“And if the quarterback does or doesn’t, sometimes I get past that and maybe check where he threw it, or if he threw it there, check the other second, third, fourth progression and see if they’re open. That’s something I’ve always done since I was in college.”
Prescott, 28, says every repetition is a chance to improve his game, even when he is not in the practice or the game.
“Whether I’m a starter or not, every rep that’s on the field is an opportunity for me to take a mental rep and get better.”
Here’s a look at a few more of the highlights that stood out during the Cowboys’ West coast swing:
Gallup goes head over heels
Much of the training camp talk has surrounded Prescott’s shoulder strain, but Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup avoided a serious injury himself on July 27.
Looking to make a catch on a fade ball thrown in the corner of the end zone, Gallup went up for the ball, flipped over a fence and landed on his knees. He finished practice after getting the wind knocked out him but missed the next few days with a sore ankle.
“My legs were like straight up in their air just like, ‘We’re going to do this? All right,'” Gallup said. “But it wasn’t too bad.”
A few days later the fence was removed behind the end zone.
Cowboys wide receiver Cedrick Wilson “was like, ‘You’re starting some stuff over here, MG. They took out a whole fence for you,'” Gallup said.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) July 27, 2021
Williams showing some fight
That Dallas guard Connor Williams tussled with defending NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald in the practice against the Los Angeles Rams showed something to a few people who still remember a scene from the Cowboys in 2020.
That scene came after Washington Football Team linebacker Jon Bostic leveled a sliding Andy Dalton with a cheap shot that left the quarterback with a concussion. Not one lineman went after Bostic for the hit on Dalton, which was a telling sign at the time. Of note, veteran offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La’el Collins did not play in last season’s Week 7 game, a 25-3 loss for Dallas.
Fast forward to Aug. 7, 2021, and the Cowboys and Rams are in the middle of joint practices. Williams was not going to back down from Donald, and after some grabbing of a face mask, the two players ended up on the ground in a scuffle, which is not all that uncommon when teams practice against each other. But using the Dalton play as a backdrop, it offered up a different sign this time around.
“I know what you’re getting at,” right guard Zack Martin said. “I think our group up front’s got a lot to prove this year. We’ve got some guys coming back. We’ve got some guys that have played a lot of football, but we’re out there to prove that we can still be a dominant line in this league. We’ve got to keep taking the steps necessary to get ready for the season.”
Biggest surprises of camp
Defense: Raise your hand if you know a whole lot about Cowboys cornerback Maurice Canady. If your hand is still raised, then you must be related to the Baltimore Ravens‘ 2016 sixth-round draft pick, who opted out of playing with Dallas last season after signing as a free agent.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) August 7, 2021
McCarthy has learned a lot about Canady, who recorded multiple interceptions in practices against the Rams.
“I didn’t know his ball skills were this good,” McCarthy said. “He’s a heck of a player. We obviously loved him when we signed him, didn’t have him because of the pandemic, but my goodness, just the way he tracks the football, I’ve been so impressed with him.”
Offense: Last season, tight end Sean McKeon made the Cowboys’ roster as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan. He didn’t catch a pass in his 14 games, but he showed improvement and that development has continued this offseason.
McKeon made a number of quality catches, including a touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone that McCarthy showed his team a few times. While he won’t supplant Blake Jarwin or Dalton Schultz as starters, he will bring value and depth to the position group.
“Those third, fourth tight ends, those guys are important,” Cowboys coordinator Kellen Moore said. “You need those guys. There’s times in games where you’ve got to get some big bodies in there and you’ve got to run the football. He’s been a guy that just keeps ascending every chance he gets.”