OXNARD, California -- Maybe it was because Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, Orlando Scandrick and Tyron Smith did not practice, but the Dallas Cowboys had a somewhat sloppy practice Monday.
There were dropped passes by key players such as Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams. There were a number of penalties, like a false start on Zack Martin. In situational work, Dak Prescott had three straight incomplete passes, forcing Dan Bailey to make a longer-than-expected field goal.
The Cowboys will hold their final practice before Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game on Tuesday and the veterans are expected to return, so maybe things will improve.
It wasn't all bad. Prescott finished the day completing 11 of 18 passes in team and 7-on-7 drills. With the red zone the focus of the 7-on-7 drills, Prescott was able to throw touchdown passes to Brice Butler, Williams and Geoff Swaim. The pass to Butler might have been his best. With the defense in a zone, Prescott rifled a pass between cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and safety Jeff Heath, who was a half-step too slow. Prescott is now 55-of-79 in team and 7-on-7 drills in five padded practices.
Butler has continued a strong spring with a strong summer. In the play-action period, he was able to create a lot of separation on CB Anthony Brown after a perfect play fake from Prescott to Elliott. Once Butler caught the ball by the sideline he showed good speed getting up the field.
With Smith not practicing, Emmett Cleary worked at left tackle with the first unit. There did not appear to be any glaring errors. Right tackle La'el Collins might have gotten away with a hold of rookie defensive end Taco Charlton on an Elliott run with his hands outside the defender's shoulders. Charlton added a pressure of Prescott on a bootleg later.
Second-year defensive end Charles Tapper caught some attention by meeting running back Rod Smith in the backfield and putting some pressure on backup QB Kellen Moore despite being held. Tapper will play a lot Thursday in the Hall of Fame Game after missing his rookie season with a back injury.
With left guard Chaz Green out for a couple of weeks with a shoulder injury, Byron Bell might get some looks on the interior. He did a nice job pulling to open a hole for Smith, allowing the runner to get up field as he plowed a defender wide.
Receiver Andy Jones took some turns as a punt returner. With receiver Ryan Switzer and cornerback Jourdan Lewis out with hamstring injuries, Jones could get a look Thursday. Receivers Lance Lenoir and Javontee Herndon have gotten most of the work the last two days but Jones looked smooth catching the ball.