Resting most of their star players, the Dallas Cowboys fell to the San Diego Chargers 27-7 tonight in their first preseason contest of 2014. The game, though obviously insignificant in itself, failed to inspire confidence in the team’s new defense as they allowed 395 yards and failed to effectively prevent the big play.
Penalties also plagued the team, nine flags for 54 yards went against Dallas on the night as the NFL looks to emphasize certain infractions such as illegal contact and defensive holding.
Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray saw no playing time in the contest but will likely make their season debuts next Saturday in Arlington. Instead, Brandon Weeden took all of Dallas’s first-half snaps at QB and the running back position was manned first by Joseph Randle and then by Ryan Williams. Overall Weeden went 13-for-17 for 107 yards and a touchdown, showing more mobility and touch than his critics give him credit for. He seems to be shaping into a viable backup.
The game was close in the first half as the beleaguered Cowboys defense surrendered 82 yards on the first San Diego drive before forcing and recovering a fumble at the goal line to keep things scoreless. The Cowboys struck first with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Weeden to James Hanna on the next drive. Weeden was chased from the pocket and did a nice job of finding Hanna in the back of the end zone while rolling to his right.
San Diego scored on their very next drive, however, and never looked back from there. Branden Oliver broke a 16-yard touchdown run to cap the next San Diego drive and tie the game, and Dallas entered halftime down 10-7 after a Chargers field goal.
With Dallas’s fringe players in on defense, things got even worse in the second half. Cornerback Korey Lindsey, notably, was burned for a 70-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter–understandable considering Lindsey was signed just yesterday and had yet to practice with the team (he doesn’t even appear on the web roster yet).
There were certainly some positives to be gleaned from the game. Ahmad Dixon, the rookie safety out of Baylor, had a big night with 12 tackles including one speedy come-from-behind takedown of running back Marion Grice behind the line of scrimmage. Problem is, the Cowboys don’t want a safety leading the team in tackles. That means the first two lines of defense didn’t do their jobs.
There were some defensive linemen who had a nice night. Kenneth Boatright had a good showing in the fourth quarter and put himself on the public’s radar for perhaps the first time. Martez Wilson and Davon Coleman continued their strong training camps with identical 3-tackle nights. But it’s true that most of the team’s standout performances came on offense.
Randle, for one, seemed to show that he was a capable every-down option for the team, running particularly well in the early portions of the contest. And the Cowboys received contributions from receivers throughout the roster, from Gavin Escobar‘s one 26-yard grab to Devin Street’s four catches for 46.
The most encouraging aspect of the game had to be Dallas’s starting O-line play. Zack Martin saw his first live snaps for the team and looked rock-solid on the right, while Mackenzie Bernadeau got the start over Ronald Leary at LG. The line truly looked like a formidable unit and it gave Weeden plenty of time to make plays. This portends well for Romo and his back.
The Cowboys will rest tomorrow before returning to practice in Oxnard this week. The Oakland Raiders will stop by the camp for a couple of days, providing Dallas some more competition other than itself. Rod Marinelli’s men, more than any other, have a lot to work on–let’s hope that the defense has a better showing against Baltimore next weekend.
Until then, keep checking in to our Cowboys page for all the latest on the silver and blue.