The highlight of Saturday’s practice was supposed to be the offense going against the defense in a live goal-line drill for the only time in training camp.
The two sides got spirited in anticipation during the morning walkthrough as they grew excited about what was to come in the afternoon.
But the goal-line work was upstaged by a brief skirmish between center Travis Frederick and defensive tackle Antwan Woods following a pass rush drill. Frederick apparently said something extra to Woods who responded with a punch, prompting a full-fledged brawl between the offensive and defensive lines. Guard Zack Martin got into the act by jumping over the top of the pile.
Frederick said it was a just a sign of the players getting tired of each other and being ready to face another team.
“I didn’t start anything, I don’t know what happened,” an innocent Frederick said before adding, “We talk about intensity and competition, those things come up. I think it’s a good thing for our team, as long as everything stays within reason. You want to keep it right at that line of anger but with composure as well.”
The Cowboys conduct a live scrimmage between second, third and fourth team players Sunday as they gear up for next Thursday’s preseason opener at the San Francisco 49ers.
Here are five other highlights from Saturday’s practice:
1. Speaking of the much anticipated goal line drill, the defense kept the offense out of the end zone on three of four snaps. Keep in mind that running back Ezekiel Elliott was held out to keep him out of harm’s way. Rookie Bo Scarbrough ran with the first team. Scarbrough scored off right tackle on the first play. A pass to tight end Blake Jarwin was incomplete on the second play. Scarbrough was then stuffed two straight times with defensive tackles Jihad Ward and Brian Price leading the way.
2. It was a completely different story when the two sides squared off in the short-yardage situation in the middle of the field. Running back Zeke Elliott converted two third-down plays and a fourth-down play. Prescott also converted a third down on a short pass to tight end Geoff Swaim. The fourth down run by Elliott was a zone read that saw Prescott run with him the length of the field to the end zone in celebration.
3. File this under something to note but not to be concerned about. Kicker Dan Bailey shockingly missed two field goals in practice Saturday, including one in a 2-minute situation team drill that would have won the game. It was interesting to see a couple of defensive players cheering the miss, not understanding the win in this battle could mean they would lose the war later on. Nothing good comes for the Cowboys when Bailey misses, even in practice. It’s could be even more acute if the offense continues to struggle scoring touchdowns as it has through the first week of practice.
4. Quarterback Dak Prescott and the receivers continue to struggle with connections down the field. A perfect example was in the compete drill when a deep ball to a wide open Michael Gallup was intercepted by cornerback Charvarius Ward. Prescott didn’t throw it soon enough or far enough, and Ward caught up with Gallup to make the interception. Prescott ended practice going a disappointing 0-3 in a team drill. Per a source, the Cowboys are not yet concerned about the passing game, which has yet to reach the end zone in practice. The receivers are still trying to get chemistry with Prescott. It doesn’t help that the Cowboys are rotating heavily at the position and he is rarely throwing to the same guys. The team will need to start narrowing its focus and getting the same guys on the field so Prescott can gain some consistency and repertoire with them.
5. Speaking of the revolving door at receiver, Deonte Thompson has been held out of practice the past few days because of a tight Achilles tendon and Allen Hurns has been limited by a tight groin. Noah Brown did return to practice after being sidelined since the start of camp with tight hamstrings. Rookie Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley remain the bright spots of the group, though both had drops on Saturday.