OXNARD, Calif. – Officially, it won’t count in any stat books, but Monday marked another milestone for Jaylon Smith.
On the final play of Monday’s practice, the Cowboys’ second-year linebacker came free through the line and blazed right past Kellen Moore in the pocket. Obviously, defenders aren’t allowed to sack the quarterback during practice, but the outcome of the play was incredibly obvious.
It was one of the biggest plays Smith has made since returning to the practice field this summer, and it wasn’t lost on anyone. As he jogged back toward his sideline, Smith’s defensive teammates convinced him to hit the Swipe – his trademark celebration dating back to his decorated career at Notre Dame.
“All the guys on the sideline was telling me to do it after I got the sack during the game, so I did the Swipe,” he said.”
Considering the long journey he’s been on during his recovery from injury, Monday actually marked the first time Smith has been able to do his celebration on a football field since he was in college. Of course, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been practicing.
“I’ve done it a few times back in my room and things like that – just keeping it fine and tuned up, just getting ready for this year,” he said.
Not surprisingly, all eyes are once against going to be on Smith as the Cowboys gear up for their third preseason game this weekend. He has handled a heavy workload at these practices, inching step-by-step toward playing time in a game, but he has yet to play in a preseason contest.
But as training camp rolls along toward its conclusion, Smith said he’ll be ready when that moment comes.
“Preparation is key, and that’s something that we’ve been doing – I’ve been doing,” he said. “I’m feeling very great, really looking forward to being able to contribute this year. When they call my number, I’ll be out there.”
Fortunately for him, Smith got a chance to practice the Swipe in practice. But to have that opportunity in a game environment would be something else entirely.
“I’ve done it at home a few times just to knock off the rust, but to be able to do it inside a stadium is going to be a great feeling,” he said.
— David Helman
Quick Hits Read
- Running back Ezekiel Elliott worked with the starting offense in the team’s first practice since the NFL announced his six-game suspension last Friday. He’s eligible to participate in preseason practices and games. Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Ronnie Hillman worked with the second- and third-team units.
- Left tackle Tyron Smith (back) returned to practice for the first time since Tuesday of last week, having sat out the previous two practices and the preseason game against L.A. with back tightness. Jonathan Cooper got work at first-team left guard.
- Working his way back from a shoulder injury, Chaz Green took left tackle and left guard reps in team drills. The Cowboys value his versatility as a candidate at left guard, and he served as the swing tackle last season before getting injured.
- Linebacker Justin Durant participated in individual drills in his first practice of training camp. Earlier Monday, he passed his physical and was moved off the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list.
- Wide receiver Brice Butler was back with the second-team offense after spraining his foot last week and sitting out the preseason game at L.A.
Nolan Carroll – The first-team cornerback came up an interception against quarterback Dak Prescott and another that was nullified by an offsides penalty. On the first, Prescott had a free play and threw the ball up for Terrance Williams on the right sideline, where Carroll leaped to grab it with both feet in bounds. Near the end of practice, Carroll picked off a pass intended for Dez Bryant down the left sideline.
Jeff Heath – In seven-on-seven drills, Heath stepped in front of Prescott’s pass intended for Williams and made the interception, the type of anticipation play on the ball that has made Heath the likely starter at safety next to Byron Jones.
Maliek Collins – The second-year defensive tackle has had some good battles with Zack Martin in one-on-one pass rush drills this camp, and on Monday he appeared to win two of three against the All-Pro left guard. Collins ranked second on the team with five sacks last season.
Play of the Day
Prescott had to be frustrated about throwing his second interception of the day to Carroll. He had been trying to connect with Bryant on a back shoulder ball, only for Carroll to read the play beautifully and snag it before Bryant could react. Not to be deterred, Prescott went right back to the same well. With Byron Jones in coverage, Bryant tore off down the field on the same route. Prescott didn’t even bother looking for anyone else – he looked for Dez all the way, heaving it down the right sideline toward his No. 1 receiver. This one was much better, as Dez hauled it in over his shoulder with Jones helpless to stop him. By the time he was pushed out of bounds, Bryant had moved the ball inside the 5-yard line.
Unofficial Injury Report:
WR Ryan Switzer (hamstring)
CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle, hamstring)
QB Luke McCown (shoulder)
DT Cedric Thornton (hamstring)
DE Tyrone Crawford (ankle)
CB Marquez White (hamstring)
CB Jourdan Lewis (hamstring)
CB Anthony Brown (hamstring)
OG Joe Looney (toe)
WR Javontee Herdnon
LB Sean Lee (hamstring)
CB Sammy Seamster
Returned to Practice:
OT Tyron Smith (back)
WR Brice Butler (foot)
LB Justin Durant (NFI)
Tuesday, Aug. 15
3:45 p.m. (PDT) – Practice Read