As joint practices go, the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos had a live and chippy session before roughly 7,000 fans Thursday at the Broncos headquarters in advance of Saturday’s preseason opener between the two teams at Empower Field at Mile High.
There were at least six skirmishes between the two teams with tensions mounting as the day went along.
But both teams got what they needed in terms of reps and solid work against another opponent after practicing against themselves for the first two weeks of training camp.
“We got better,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said. “We took a step. You go on the road and play in someone else’s practice environment, things can get chippy. But when you put that to the side and look at the X’s and O’s and execution. We took a step.”
On paper, the Broncos seemingly got the best of the Cowboys with their defense only allowing one touchdown while Russell Wilson and the Broncos offense crossed the goal line several times.
Wilson also tossed pick-6 to defensive end Tarell Basham. And he was under heavy duress for much of the day by Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, who would have several would-be sacks if they could touch the quarterbacks.
Prescott was sharp and accurate most of the day. He completed nine of his first 10 passes, 14 of 18 and was 20 of 26 before ending the day 24 of 33.
Prescott threw a touchdown pass to receiver CeeDee Lamb. But he also had an interception to safety Justin Simmons and was undone by at least two drops, including one on a potential big play to rookie receiver Jalen Tolbert.
Prescott said he treated the practice like a game as he is not expected to play at all in the preseason. He has already been ruled out of the Broncos game and next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers. He will get work in the joint practices between the two teams on Wednesday and Thursday.
He said the reps he got against the Broncos was more than he would have gotten in a preseason game.
“It was great,” Prescott said. “It was what coach told me early in the spring when he was putting the schedule together that this would in a sense be my game. That is how I approached it to put my best performance out. It was great for me.”
Observations from the Cowboys practice against the Broncos:
1. Linebacker Micah Parsons was the star of the day with several would-be sacks. Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett called Parsons “a beast” afterward. Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson went over to Parsons after a play to talk to him. The two bonded at the Pro Bowl. Parsons said Wilson is big into fitness and told him to take care of his body.
2. The Cowboys receivers corps has been a question mark since the start of training camp. On Thursday against the Broncos, it was more of what has been seen in camp: CeeDee Lamb as the g0-to reciever, making the only three big plays down the field. Prescott said the two are continuing to grow as a combination.
Noah Brown has had a strong training camp and he showed up big time against the Broncos with a team-leading eight catches. Undrafted rookie Dennis Houston, who has been the surprise of camp, had three catches running with the first-team offense. Rookie third-round pick Jalen Tolbert had a fumble and a drop.
3. The Broncos defensive line got the best of the Cowboys offensive line for much of the workout. Prescott was sacked only twice but there was no room to run on the ground for a team that is trending toward a run-first attack. Particularly troubling are the Cowboys tackles not named Tyron Smith. Right tackle Terence Steele and backup tackle Josh Ball had rough time against the Broncos line.
4. The Cowboys admittedly had trouble with the heat and that altitude against the Broncos. The 95-degree temperature was a far cry from what the team has experienced the past two weeks in Oxnard, Calif., where the hottest day for practice was 75. The altitude also had an impact. Defensive tackle Neville Gallimore said his “check engine light” came on during practice.
5. All of the fights occurred between the Cowboys offense and the Broncos defense. Tackles Aviante Collins and Terence Steele, center Matt Farniok and tight end Jake Ferguson were among main combatants for the Cowboys, although quarterback Dak Prescott found himself chirping in a scrum. Defensive end Randy Gregory, who snubbed the Cowboys by signing with the Broncos in free agency, didn’t participate because of a shoulder injury. But he found himself on the field several times during the scrums talking trash to his former teammates. “He just misses us,” Prescott said of Gregory.