- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. -- In the first padded practice of training camp, the Cowboys worked on their third-down situations and field goal attempts and punt coverage in team drills on Tuesday.
There was one change to the depth chart on defense.
The Cowboys moved defensive end Kyle Wilber from the first team to the second team for the afternoon practice. Ben Bass, an undrafted second-year player from Texas A&M, got the snaps with the first team. Wilber is making the switch from outside linebacker to end, and there is going to be an expected learning curve. Bass impressed the coaches in training camp last season but didn't make the final 53-man roster. With the Cowboys gearing toward younger players for the defensive line, Bass is off to a strong start.
Danny McCray moved from the third-team defense at safety to the second team over Matt Johnson, but it wasn't due to performance. Johnson suffered cramps and was given a seat to deal with his health issue. But McCray played pretty well Tuesday, with two hard hits on run plays. McCray shed a block from a defender to make a tackle on running back DeMarco Murray.
Dez Bryant is just, well, it's hard to describe. He beat cornerback Morris Claiborne on four plays in the one-on-one passing drill. In the team period, Bryant caught a back-shoulder fade from Tony Romo against Brandon Carr. The pass hit Bryant in the cuff of the arm. It seemed as if Bryant saw the ball at the last minute and it just stuck to his body. Bryant and Romo have incredible chemistry right now.
Mountain West Conference line judge Cat Conti was one of four referees working practice on Tuesday. Why is this important? Well, Conti, a woman, quit her job as a high school drama teacher to become a referee. Conti said it took just one year for it to happen and that the ultimate goal is to become an NFL official.
Safety Barry Church redeemed himself after arriving late on a deep pass to Bryant, which resulted in a touchdown, to come up fast and smash Bryant down on a hitch. The Cowboys are looking for range from their safeties, and so far, Will Allen has provided that. Church is getting better at it.
Wide receiver Miles Austin continues to struggle. He allowed Sean Lee to knock a pass out of his hands, the second consecutive day that's happened. Austin is running hard but is struggling a little bit when it comes to contested catches. Allen knocked a pass out of Austin's hands in Monday's session.
Eric Rogers is moving up fast. The undrafted free agent receiver from Cal Lutheran continues to make plays on the second and third teams. Rogers is fighting for a roster spot and has done a nice job of catching passes in traffic and, when open, doesn't drop the ball. The Cowboys might keep five or six receivers, and Rogers is in the mix for one of the last spots at that position.
The start of the third-down situations was bad for the defense. DeMarcus Ware and Bass were flagged for jumping offsides on two of the first three plays. When Ware was flagged, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin slammed his hat down.
It was a feisty day for tight end Jason Witten. He committed two false start penalties, caught some balls and upset Ware. After a running play, Ware yelled a profanity and said he was being held by Witten.
There were 1,972 fans at Tuesday's practice, bringing the training camp attendance total to 10,917.