By Will Martin
You can take the angle that as an exhibition it didn’t count.
You can also talk about the absence of starters like Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, even the McLains.
Cowboys fans still remember the sting of a second half meltdown in San Diego after enjoying an 11 point lead 21-10 9/29/13 before allowing 20 unanswered points.
Thursday night’s exhibition lidlifter in California left a lot to be desired. The final score read 27-7.
It should have been 34-0.
On a night where running was key on both sides early on, we saw Brandon Weeden play all of the first half keeping everything short and on the ground while going a respectable 13 for 17 (1 drop) for 101 yards.
Weeden also proved he could take a shot to the chest when tossing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Boozer look alike James Hanna to give Dallas its only lead of the night of 7-0. The score came after a stupid decision by Chargers back Ryan Matthews trying to score via the air and having the ball jarred loose by Jeff Heath. A turnover that was one of the few bright spots for the Cowboys first game of the exhibition slate.
Jason Garrett vowed that the team would commit to the running game. On the first possession Joseph Randle (viable option to play alongside DeMarco Murray) showed spurts of getting into the open as Scott Linehans play-calling took the boys to midfield.
Enter the return of the penalty bugaboos. Push em back, push em back (way back). Dallas was forced to punt. They kept the pigskin for almost six and a half minutes.
“It was good. We made some good plays. The offensive line played well, and we were able to run the ball effectively, which gives us an opportunity to throw effectively,” Weeden said. “We had some good plays and were able to finish it off.”
How did it feel to be back out there?
“It was a different feeling,” Weeden said. “When you put on those shoulder pads, it’s just, that jersey and that helmet, it’s just a cool feeling. It really is. I love it here. I love this group of guys we’re going to battle with. It’s fun. I enjoyed it. It’s something, I definitely thought about it as it was going on.”
I was impressed with the collective play of Zack Martin and Travis Frederick up front. The O line of the 2014 Dallas Cowboys will be one of the few shining spots of this team. It also occurred to me that if (God forbid) anything were to happen to Tony Romo, you’d have an all Oklahoma State tandem of Weeden-Randle-Bryant on the line.
Ex-Cowboys that validate the Silver and Blue. Caleb Haney and Dustin Vaughn took snaps in the second half to go a combined 9 for 18 for 97 yards.
Last year Danny Woodhead gave Dallas fits going deep, going across the line and then on out routes. More of the same this night. It was indeed disheartening to see the number of gaping holes that allowed the Chargers to go 14 for 16 for 243 yards in the air and grind out 152 yards on 42 touches for two scores in a 27-7 victory.
Branden Oliver (wearing #43 and reminding many of Darren Sproles) amassed 64 yards on seven carries with one of those touchdowns.
Did Jason Garrett place much emphasis on this ‘exhibition’?
“I thought there were some good things, and still a lot of areas that we need to improve,” said Garrett. “I thought we drove the ball fairly well on offense a couple of different times. I think penalties hurt us both offensively and defensively. I thought they drove the ball well against us, for the most part – running it and throwing it.”
Justin Durant did produce a nice goal line stand on one possession when the game was already in question.
“We had a lot of guys that did not play, but next week we will get a better feel. With the guys we had out there, it felt good, it felt fast,” Garrett said. “They put a drive on us, but that’s going to happen. I felt like we dealt with it great and came up with a turnover at the end.”
The dagger of this night came when Kellen Clemens connected for a 70-yard score which allowed San Diego to pull away.
Joseph Randle had thirteen rushes for 50 yards as the Cowboys would have another possession when the ball was kept almost six minutes on their 75 yard scoring drive.
Ryan Williams added eight carries for 29 yards offensively while Devin Street and Jamar Newsome combined for seven catches and 81 yards.
Defensively the Baylor standout Ahmad Dixon made my eyes glaze. 12 tackles with ferocity and conviction before having to leave with a concussion early the in the 4th after making a stop on Marion Grice.
“I’m feeling good,” Dixon said. “Got a little dinged up. It just kind of was a little ‘welcome to the NFL’ type of blow. But I’m feeling good. I learned a lot. Coaches threw me out there a little bit. I got to showcase my skills a little bit, but overall I feel good,”
In my notes (while watching this fast paced game) I remarked, ‘I Like Ahmad Dixon! This kid can hit!’
One concern for his safety: the quicker he learns to not lead with his crown the better.
Nine penalties for 54 yards is something the Cowboys will try to improve upon when next they play at home August 16 with the Baltimore Ravens. Also a birthday for Cowboys play-caller Brad Sham.
Most of the starters sat, it was an exhibition, it didn’t count and the TV people were doing their darndest to get you to buy that Party Pass package and Suite rentals. Countdown to September 7, the 49ers and a regular season now days away. This is a 6-10 team at best from where I sit.