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Oxnard notes: 5 takeaways from Tuesday’s action at Cowboys camp

The Dallas Cowboys opened up their second week of training camp with a practice session on Tuesday where the defense got the upper hand.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys' Trevon Diggs (27) celebrates after intercepting a pass by Philadelphia Eagles' Carson Wentz during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

OXNARD, Calif. — The Dallas Cowboys held their fourth practice of training camp at River Ridge Playing Fields on Tuesday.

The defense had a good day against the offense during the team portion of scrimmages. Here are some of the takeaways from the last of the "underwear Olympics" before the pads come on for Wednesday's practice:

1. Trevon Diggs continues No. 1 dominance — There doesn't appear to be a sophomore slump so far for the former 2020 second-round pick from Alabama. Diggs remarked that his 14 pass breakups last season were missed opportunities for interceptions. 

The 6-1, 203-pound cornerback showed that he might be in for more takeaways in 2021 when he deflected a Dak Prescott pass intended for receiver Noah Brown. Diggs instinctively collected the loose ball and scored a pick-six. 

"Way more confident, way more comfortable," Diggs told 1310 "The Ticket" [KTCK-AM] after practice. "Things are starting to slow down for me."

2. Defense 'won,' but unit looking for more — Second-year defensive tackle Neville Gallimore summed up the defense's success against the offense on the afternoon perfectly: "When we do the things right and everybody is locked in, that's what's supposed to happen. So, having a day like today, the biggest thing is trying to keep on stacking days like that. You call it a win, but that's a standard we're trying to set." 

The defense executed their brand of football against the Cowboys' first-team offense. The afternoon isn't so much about a "win" as it is completing a series of victorious practices en route to a full-on culture change.

3. Zack Martin's ankle — The All-Pro guard missing time brings consternation to Cowboys fans, but Martin, who is working with what ESPN's Todd Archer called a "minor ankle injury," assured that his lack of team participation was part of a plan with the trainers. "Me and the trainers have a good plan of how to take some stress on when we can and getting what we need to get ready for the season," said Martin. 

The former 2014 first-round pick from Notre Dame missed six games in 2020, which was hallmarked by the lack of continuity along the offensive line due to injuries.

4. Gallup-side-down — Wideout Michael Gallup wasn't able to come with a touchdown reception on a deep ball in the left corner of the end zone. Diggs provided stellar coverage and used the boundaries as another defender. 

The fourth-year receiver was going full speed and went over the fence at the back of the end zone. Gallup wasn't hurt, but needed a second to catch his breath and get back over the fence to resume practice.

5. Carlos Watkins' way — Will McClay and the personnel department have had a fascination with Houston Texans defensive ends going back to Christian Covington in 2019. The fixation continues as the club signed Carlos Watkins in the offseason. 

Through four training camp practices, Watkins has impressed coach Mike McCarthy, who sees the 6-3, 297-pound defensive lineman playing a myriad of positions along the line. "I like what he brings to the workplace and the class room, but I'll tell you what, he moves better than I expected," McCarthy said. "He has position flexibility. I think he can bounce all the way out to the five-technique. I think that says a lot about him and it gives us the flexibility particularly as we're talking about getting in and out of these base and sub packages." 

Watkins and the defense will have another chance to "win" practice Wednesday when the pads come on for the first time in camp.

Do you see the Cowboys’ defense making strides in 2021? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.