By Zach Walker
Dallas Cowboys vs San Diego Chargers
Thursday – August 13 – 9PM CT
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Game one, the first sip of football. This game is far from polished and far from the season opener, which is exactly a calendar month from the 13th. Preseason is the time for players to force themselves on to the roster, with plays and consistency. Rather than do my normal preview stuff, I’ll highlight guys to watch for the game.
Cowboys Players to Watch
1) OL – La’el Collins (#71): This is going to be Collins’ first true evaluation, where he’ll be have someone going 110% against him and give him follow-through effort. Ron Leary isn’t going anywhere, he’s going to be between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium against the Giants. Collins has to show the power that is needed from the guard, the movement skills to pull and lead the back into the open field.
2) LB – Damien Wilson (#57): Wilson is thought of as a rotation linebacker when he was drafted in the fourth round, but was coveted by Rich Bisaccia to come in and be the man on special teams. However, with Rolando McClain being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP) on top of, his being suspended for the first four games, the importance of the rotation linebackers is going to be paramount. Anthony Hitchens is going to be a beast, and Wilson is going to have to be what Hitchens was last season, a welcomed surprise.
3) WR – Lucky Whitehead (#13): If you haven’t paid ANY attention to any offseason practices or scrimmages, you’re about to find out about Lucky Whitehead. Many people of importance in the information giving business have been raving about Whitehead’s skills. Not to say that Whitehead’s skills are matched by his disposability, because the Cowboys’ offense can’t afford to put Dez Bryant or even Cole Beasley back to return punts regularly. But where Whitehead’s really a threat, is that he’s got the sharp receiving ability to round out the fourth or fifth receiver spot.
4) RB – Gus Johnson (#37): Over the last few days, the Cowboys have been two backs down, Darren McFadden is hampered by a hamstring injury and Lance Dunbar has had an ankle injury. Now, Joseph Randle is bummed with an oblique injury. The Oxnard sun shines on the healthy and Gus Johnson has looked very capable. Johnson is from Stephen F. Austin, and was the Southland Conference offensive player of the year last season, and was a workhorse. Built well, compact, and stout, these injuries to other backs can leave the door very open for Johnson to blow through. Randle is likely to get a series, then it could be the Gus Johnson show.
5) OT – Darrion Weems (#75): Weems is going to try and take up the Jeremy Parnell position as the swing tackle. Last season, when the first team offensive line wasn’t in, it was a pretty shocking drop off. I don’t suspect that for this season. With Weems, Collins, Mack Bernadeau, and Laurence Gibson, they should be a much better unit, but Weems needs to be the anchor on the second line, so much so, that the staff thinks he could fill in for Doug Free in more than a pinch.
Chargers Players to Watch
1) LB – Denzel Perryman (#52): The Chargers used a second round pick on a play-wrecking middle linebacker in Denzel Perryman. He’s got sideline-to-sideline ability, ball hunting skills, and speed to meet the play head-on. When the ball is in the Cowboys possession, and the ball is in a running back’s grasp, Perryman is going to be right there.
2) TE – Ladarius Green (#89): Antonio Gates is going to be suspended for the first four games of the season, and it’s going to be the former Ragin’ Cajun to truly take the job by the scruff and show the future of the Chargers’ tight end position. Green should get plenty of opportunities throughout the preseason to get ready for an early onslaught of passes his way.
Prediction: Dallas 20 – San Diego 21. Nothing like game one to get the fans going.