2014 PRESEASON GAME RECAP: Dallas Cowboys vs. San Diego Chargers | Defense struggled without key starters | Players performance reviewed | Broaddus from the broadcast booth | Ahmad Dixon shines | Third-string RB battle taking shape
Highlights Video | Cowboys at Chargers | 2:21 | The San Diego Chargers played host to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 of the preseason, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden had 107 yards and a touchdown. (Watch | No Audio)
2014 PRESEASON GAME RECAP: Dallas Cowboys vs. San Diego Chargers | Starter-less opener brings expected combination of good and bad | Brandon Weeden plays well | Most of the first-string defense sits out game one
SAN DIEGO – Take the good with the bad after two quarters of preseason football – there was a decent amount of both. Continue reading →
SAN DIEGO– Seven days ago, the Dallas Cowboys had one of the better games we’ve seen them play in quite a while. Offense and defense both dominated, prompting Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones and Tony Romo to describe it a team win.
Sunday afternoon in San Diego, this was equally … a team loss.
Everyone played a part in this 30-21 setback. And yeah, without a doubt this game – against that team and that environment with you-know-who coming to town next week – is a major setback for a Cowboys team that has lived in mediocrity for two years.
But we’ve got more time to get into the big picture. Let’s focus on Sunday’s meltdown in San Diego, where the Cowboys weren’t even facing a normal road environment. Considering the thousands among thousands of Dallas Cowboys fans in attendance, which seemingly gave the crowd a 50-50 split.
The Cowboys made a nice run in the second quarter. And when Jason Hatcher smashed Philip Rivers, forcing an interception to Sean Lee, who sprinted to the end zone for a 21-10 lead, I think most of us all thought this had the makings of a rout.
In a way, the rout was on. We just didn’t think it would be Rivers and his patched-together offensive that were about to do the routing. Yes, they have a future Hall of Famer in Antonio Gates, who certainly was the best tight end on the field Sunday, but Rivers was making Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen into household names.
A slow start on offense to open the game, coupled with a slow start on offense in the third quarter isn’t a good combination.
Add this all up and the Cowboys left San Diego with a 2-2 record and a butt-kicking that we really didn’t see coming.
Like all games, you can point the finger at something or someone. But in this case, we’ll need both hands to do it.
- Let’s start with the defense, because that is where this team was supposed to be the spot the Cowboys would dominate. The Chargers had three starters missing on the offensive line – both guards and a starting tackle. And then, another backup guard who started the game left with an injury. This team was down to playing a guy named Stephen Schilling at guard who was signed just this week. And still, the Cowboys couldn’t win that battle. Dallas had occasional pressure, but only one sack. The biggest shock was the second half and how Rivers and the Chargers were able to keep the pressure at bay with short, dink-and-dunk stuff that kept the Cowboys on their toes.
- How about the linebackers in coverage? Sean Lee had a great interception return on a deflected pass that went straight to him. Other than that, the linebackers had trouble keeping up with Gates and Woodhead. In fact, although defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said it was not the case, Bruce Carter appeared to be gassed after he allowed the second touchdown pass to Woodhead. Ernie Sims played most of the second half in the nickel defense. But everyone knows Rivers likes to go to Gates. He went to him 10 times and Gates called 10 passes. They had no answer for him, especially on the deep ball for the back-breaking score.
- Sticking with defense, Morris Claiborne just didn’t get the job done. Last year, he was solid, which makes you think he’d be closer to really good this year. And he looks worse, so far. Sunday, he gave up several big plays and just doesn’t seem to be playing with any confidence right now. He looks out of position too many times. It’s fair to wonder about his health, but if that shoulder is too much of a hindrance than it’s time to try something else. Makes you wonder if the move to start Scandrick wasn’t really about Claiborne’s injury but more about playing the better player.
- We’ve been giving plenty of praise to the defensive coaches – Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli lately. They should take some of the blame, too. And Kiffin admitted that after the game, saying the defense didn’t get off the field as much as they should have. Without a doubt, credit the coaches overall to the development of guys like Nick Hayden, George Selvie and Jason Hatcher’s improved play. But, on Sunday, the Chargers just seemed to have a better game plan. They exploited the mismatches of Woodhead against the linebackers and Gates against anyone who was on him. San Diego offset the pressure with a great mixture of runs, short passes and the occasional deep ball.
- On offense, you have to wonder – once again – why they didn’t stick to the running game. DeMarco Murray had 14 carries for 70 yards. You’ll take that 5.0-yard average all day. 13 first-down runs – 12 by Murray and one by Lance Dunbar – and the Cowboys were averaging 4.6 yards a carry on first down. Think about that, Murray had 12 of his 14 carries on first downs and picked up about four yards on average, yet they didn’t go back to him very often. Once again, that’s an issue. They went away from the run on second down, forcing too many third-downs and the Cowboys were just 3-of-9 on third-down efficiency. Who knows who to blame about that anymore – Bill Callahan for the calls or Tony Romo for checking out, or maybe Jason Garrett for not overseeing it better. Either way, you can’t make the argument the Cowboys weren’t running it effectively.
- This team missed Miles Austin. The Chargers did a nice job of blanket coverage on Dez Bryant and the combination of safeties and linebacker on Jason Witten was also great. When that happens, they go to Miles Austin. Rookie Terrance Williams isn’t ready for that role. Williams did a nice job bouncing back from the early drop to get some confidence going. He finished with seven catches for 71 yards, but that costly fumble near the goal line will ultimately be his most memorable play of the game.
- Frankly, you can pretty much put a dropped pass on all of the receivers at some point in the game. Dwayne Harris had one early, as did Williams. Jason Witten had one over the middle and Dez Bryant couldn’t come up with one near the sideline, which of course would’ve been a great play. The ball hit both hands as he’s trying to get his feet in bounds. Like the rest of them, that was a drop. If the Cowboys are going to be a team that consistently has a pass-run ratio of 37-16, then the receivers can’t be having costly drops.
- The offensive line struggled early, picked it up later on, but then had costly mistakes. Travis Frederick and both guards had trouble with Corey Liuget. He was a beast inside for the Chargers. Romo was sacked three times overall and had constant pressure. Overall, you need better play from the line.
- Since we’re doling out some blame, let’s put some on the kicking game. And no, I’m not referring to Dan Bailey’s miss, although that will fall on other shoulders in a moment. But punter Chris Jones didn’t have his best game at all. His five punts averaged just 40.6 yards with a 34.2 net. His first punt traveled just 33 yards when the Cowboys were in need of flipping the field position. And his drop-kick punts that turn end-over-end aren’t consistently getting to the 10-yard line range, but closer to the 20, where punt returners have no problem fielding. He wasn’t horrible, but they need him to be better.
- And lastly, you have to put some blame on the entire coaching staff, which goes to Garrett. The one decision that potentially hurt this team was attempting the 56-yarder by Bailey. Sure, he had a wind to his back but that’s a long way to split the uprights. The Cowboys had the momentum again and finally some good field position after Dwayne Harris’ nice return. But they gave it right back with that missed kick. It allowed the Chargers to play the next possession downhill and they got a field goal. The fact the team started out sluggish in the first and third quarter usually shows a lack of preparation, focus or intensity or just something missing.
So if you’re playing the blame game after this one, there’s plenty to go around.
The Cowboys lost to a team that just out-played them on Sunday. It wasn’t one key play that did them in. It wasn’t one player that hurt them. Chalk this one up as a team loss. That’s pretty demoralizing considering you’ve got a lot of things to fix and only the NFL’s best team and hottest quarterback coming into town this week.
IRVING, Texas – After a closer look at Sunday’s loss, here are some thoughts from the film room at Valley Ranch:
Take What Is There — TWIT
The execution of the offensive game plan by the San Diego Chargers was outstanding. From the press box, it appeared very simple and after studying the game, it was. It was tailored to not put Philip Rivers in any poor situations because of the condition of his offensive line. Going into this game, it was clear that if Monte Kiffin did not put pressure on Rivers, his defense could struggle no matter who was blocking for him or catching the ball.
Given the time that Rivers had to work with, he made this Cowboys defense pay. When Kiffin played his normal zone coverage, Rivers found answers underneath with quick, simple throws to Antonio Gates, who was 10-for-10 on targets and receptions. When Kiffin tried to adjust to handle plays underneath and in the middle of the field, Rivers worked the ball in the flat to Ryan Mathews or Danny Woodhead, who found themselves in space with no defender to contest the play. For every adjustment that Kiffin tried to make Mike McCoy and Philip Rivers were just better.
On the second touchdown to Woodhead, Rivers in the shot-gun is reading the defensive alignment and noticed where the safety is playing and understands that Bruce Carter is going to be in one-on-one coverage to his left. Rivers moves Woodhead from his right to his left, to take advantage of the matchup. On the outside to the left, the Chargers receivers come off the line running routes like they have not one clue what Rivers is trying to do but Woodhead does. As the play develops, Woodhead starts up the field on the wheel route. Carter as of the majority of the day was late to adjust and Woodhead gets separation instantly, then it became a simple game of pitch-and-catch for the touchdown.
The Chargers despite being short-handed at several positions, did a much better job of playing to the strengths of what they had to work with. There protection along the offensive line at times was not perfect and at times was boarder line, criminal in the way they held on plays but where they were perfect was in the way that their star players did play and that was the biggest difference in this loss for the Cowboys.
Need MO confidence
All the great cornerbacks speak about how you have to play with confidence each and every play. Skill and ability are important but if you do not believe you can succeed, you will fail. We have seen Morris Claiborne play with that skill and ability but right now, he is a lost football player. Even when he is in position to make a play, something bad happens to him. Not matter how hard he tries, it’s just not good enough and that is hurting this defense.
Mentally the breakdowns that he has struggled with in coverage and the penalties are taking their toll on him. Each snap that he takes, has made him a shell of the player he once was when he lined up at LSU. Keenan Allen is a nice player but there is no way on a 3rd – 8, that he should catch a jump ball for 31 yards to keep a drive alive. Those high point balls are what made Claiborne the player he was at LSU. I cannot tell you how many times, I have seen him defend that pass either knocking it away or grabbing an interception. Instead, he is off balance with no clue where the ball is.
It has not mattered, off or press you name it, he has struggled to play it. Cornerbacks live on the edge each play, you are out there for all to see and that’s Claiborne’s problem. Opponents are not seeing him make any plays and he does nothing to dictate, that quarterbacks needs to go the other way. There were times in that Chargers game where Claiborne, was not even in the same area code as the receiver. Is that the sign of a confident player?
To his credit, Claiborne has not used injury or physical pain as an excuse for his play. I believe the coaching that he receives from this staff is putting him in positions to attempt to make plays as we all know, the problem is finishing those opportunities. Opponents have figured out real fast to put three receivers on the field and attack this defense that way and until Claiborne plays better, that is the hand they will be dealt. Regardless, you don’t throw your hands up and say we quit. Morris Claiborne still has the confidence of the front office and the coaching staff despite the fact that he is playing like he is struggling with his own. Making consistent plays should help both parties in that regard but it needs to start now.
Carter lost in space
There have not been many days in his young career where you can say that Bruce Carter did not play his absolute best. Against the Chargers, he had one of those rough days. Sean Lee is the best linebacker in coverage on this team but Carter was right there with him. Whether the ball was going to the flat or like Sunday where the ball was going up the field. Carter had always played with the correct technique. He was often quick to read and put himself in position in the route to make the play.
There is nothing more difficult for a linebacker to have to deal with than man-coverage in space. It is where offensive coordinators and quarterbacks live to create those matchups. On both of the touchdown passes to Danny Woodhead, the Chargers were able to create these types of situations. Carter was left on Woodhead, when Rivers sent Antonio Gates to the outside which caused Carter and Orlando Scandrick to have to trade the coverage. I understand how they were trying to defend this because of the threat of Gates down the field so putting Scandrick on him was the best option. The second touchdown, was just an adjustment made by Rivers when he saw how the safeties were aligned and was able to get Woodhead up the sideline and on Carter.
There was also a post route run by Gates where he started from the right and went across the field left. Both Carter and Lee were on deep drops but Lee was more to the inside which left Carter to handle Gates who was behind him and just in front of the safety. Rivers was able to correctly read the depth of the linebackers’ drops and float to the ball right over the top of Carter, who was unable to make the play. After the play on tape, you see Carter clap his hands upset he didn’t make the play but you also see Lee turns to look at him in a way like they missed one there.
Carter was later replaced in the lineup by Ernie Sims, who responded with six tackles which was good to see but this is Carter’s job. Where these Cowboys linebackers have had their issues this season playing this scheme, is with their drops in pass coverage. Sean Lee has stood before us in the media and said that he has to even get better if this defense is going to improve. Bruce Carter had a terrible day coverage wise but we have also seen him play at a very high level in this league.
Improved rookie on his own
This was the second time in three weeks that Travis Frederick had the opportunity to line up and play against a 3-4 defense and his level of play was night and day from what we had seen in Kansas City. Frederick will not face another odd front until the trip to New Orleans in November. Where Frederick made his biggest improvements was how he was able to handle blocks one-on-one without help from Ronald Leary and Brian Waters.
There were several plays where Frederick was able to snatch his man on a front side reach or cut off block. He played with solid power and did not get compressed or worked back into the play. He was able to work his body and feet in a way that allowed the ball to be taken to either side. He played on his feet and he did not struggle to sustain his blocks. His second level blocks improved to the point where you did not see his man in on the tackle like we did in Kansas City. In pass protection, when uncovered in nickel front, he was solid in the front of the pocket. He showed the ability to sit down on rushers and not give up ground inside. There appeared no mental busts or problems with his assignments.
Coming in this season, there were questions about his ability to play against power and have that guy on his nose the entire game. Against Kansas City, there were some issues but he was able to put that behind him and have a solid, productive game against the Chargers, where he can take some confidence from it.
The Dallas Cowboys lose 30-21 to the San Diego Chargers in week 4 of the 2013-2014 NFL season.
Dallas head coach Jason Garrett talks to the media following the Cowboys loss to the Chargers.
Dallas QB Tony Romo talks to the media following the Cowboys loss to the San Diego Chargers.
Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner, and Bryan Broaddus following the Dallas Cowboys loss to the San Diego Chargers as they bring you First Take presented by Nationwide Insurance.
Heading into their matchup at San Diego, the Dallas Cowboys knew that if they were going to be considered a legitimate contender in 2013-2014, this was the type of game they needed to win.
They didn’t, losing 30-21 to the Chargers in front of what seemed like a partisan Cowboys crowd, Dallas’ record for the season falling to 2-2, the third straight year and fourth time in five years that they’ve been at .500 a quarter into the schedule.
And the game seemed to be in their grasp, at least late in the second quarter when they went up by 11 points, 21-10. But San Diego then reeled off 20 unanswered points, simply dominating the Dallas defense in the second half, and in particular the third quarter, to send the Cowboys home in defeat.
Making matters worse, an already thin defensive line for the Cowboys took another blow. Earlier in the week, Anthony Spencer was placed on injured reserve, lost for the season. Then against the Chargers, his replacement, George Selvie, left late in the game due to injury, while DeMarcus Ware, who battled a plethora of injuries last season, was in and out of the lineup for much of they day due to a stinger in his neck and shoulder.
Still, other than a stretch in the second quarter, the Cowboys really had no answer for Philip Rivers, as the Chargers quarterback threw for 401 yards, completing 35-of-42 passes with three touchdowns and one interception. Dallas had trouble containing Antonio Gates, the tight end hauling in 10 passes for 136 yards and a score while running back Danny Woodhead caught two touchdowns as well, contributing 86 yards from scrimmage.
Continuing with his dink-and-dunk strategy, Tony Romo connected on 27-of-37 for 244 passing yards and two touchdowns. Dez Bryant led the team with 81 receiving yards on six grabs, including the two scores, with rookie Terrance Williams, who was starting in place of the injured Miles Austin, setting a career high with seven catches for 71 yards. On the ground, DeMarco Murray rushed 14 times for 70 yards, averaging a respectable 5.0 yards per carry.
Overall, San Diego finished with 506 yards of total offense to the Cowboys’ 317 and held the time of possession advantage, 34:03 to 25:57.
The Cowboys troubles began right from the start, as they punted on their first three possessions, only picking up one first down in the process. Meanwhile, the Chargers reached the end zone on their second drive, Rivers throwing an over-the-shoulder pass to Woodhead from 26 yards out to put San Diego up 7-0.
But as the clock turned over to the second quarter, the Cowboys’ fortunes seemed to change, as Dallas outscored the Chargers 21-6 to go into the half with an eight-point lead. Leading the way was the team’s defense, as well as the ever-potent combination of Romo to Bryant.
On the team’s first touchdown, which came on a nine-play, 85-yard drive, Romo basically threw a 5-yard jump ball to Bryant on the right side of the end zone, the team’s all-everything receiver simply out-muscling the defender to come down with the prize and tie the game, 7-7.
Unfortunately, that good will was almost spoiled when head coach Jason Garrett made the questionable decision to try for a 56-yard field goal on the Chargers 38-yard line instead of either punting it away or going for it on fourth-and-6. The kick had the distance, but sailed wide, and with the ensuing good field position, the Chargers quickly worked into Dallas territory, eventually attempting their own field goal, this one good from 36 yards out to move back in front, 10-7.
The Cowboys took back control, however, and on their next possession, Romo and Bryant connected again, this time the quarterback hitting his target over the middle. Bryant showed off his speed by splitting the defense and racing to paydirt for a 34-yard score, the Cowboys jumping out to a 14-10 advantage.
And then the defense did its part. On second-and-3 from near midfield, Rivers dropped back to pass and was hit by charging defensive tackle Jason Hatcher just as he was making his throw. The fluttering ball was corralled by Sean Lee, the linebacker then racing down the right sideline with a whole convoy of teammates in front of him, going 52 yards for the score.
The Cowboys couldn’t quite make it into the half at 21-10, as the Chargers had plenty of time to work into field goal range, reaching the Dallas 24-yard line where kicker Nick Novak split the uprights on a 42-yarder to narrow the gap to 21-13 at the break.
This game is all about adjustments, though, and apparently during the half, the Chargers seemingly made theirs while perhaps Dallas didn’t, as San Diego came out and simply dominated the third quarter.
The Chargers took the opening possession of the second half and swiftly marched 80 yards on 10 plays, eating up 5:28 of the clock. Rivers completed passes of 9, 8, 28 and 14 yards before lofting a 7-yarder to Woodhead who was wide open on the left side of the end zone, 21-20. The score marked the first two-touchdown game in Woodhead’s career.
That was then quickly followed by another lengthy drive by the home team. The Chargers took over at their own 11-yard line with 6:09 remaining in the third quarter, and finally saw Novak chip in a 23-yard field goal at the 14:50 mark of the fourth to take the lead, 23-21.
Soon enough, that advantage was pushed to 30-21, as the Dallas offense could get little going. Forced to punt, the Cowboys defense then couldn’t get the stop they needed as Rivers continued to pick them apart. Tight end Antonio Gates got behind Lee deep down the middle, breaking free for a 56-yard touchdown with just under seven minutes remaining.
The Cowboys tried to get back in the game and were knocking on the door, driving all the way down to the San Diego 7-yard line. But on second-and-goal, Terrance Williams caught a pass across the middle and then tried to stretch the ball out over the goal line as he was being tackled. Instead, the ball was knocked loose, bouncing into the end zone where cornerback Richard Marshall recovered it, ending any hopes of a comeback for Dallas.
Despite the loss, the Cowboys are benefiting from a weak NFC East and remain in first place. But, they’ve got a tough job ahead of them now to avoid falling below .500, as they’ll face the red-hot Denver Broncos next Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
SAN DIEGO – Initial thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
What it means for the Cowboys: Once again the Cowboys let slip away a golden chance to show they were more of a team to watch in the NFC than just a team that can compete in a bad NFC East.
Dallas had an 11-point lead with 1:19 left in the first half, but allowed 20 straight points to the Chargers, leaving with another loss to an AFC West foe. And it doesn’t get easier with another AFC West foe, the Denver Broncos, visiting AT&T Stadium next week.
Cowboys lost 17-16 in Week 2 at Kansas City in a game they could have won, but the offense was unable to sustain any momentum. Today, the defense could not come up with any crucial stops after Sean Lee’s interception return for a touchdown.
Stock watch: Falling — Morris Claiborne. He is playing with a dislocated shoulder, but this was nothing to do with his ability to tackle. He was poor in coverage against Vincent Brown and rookie Keenan Allen. Philip Rivers continually went at Claiborne (as well as Bruce Carter, who could not stick with running back Danny Woodhead).
Can’t get off the field: After Lee’s second career pick-six, and the third defensive touchdown of the season, the Cowboys’ defense had no answers for Rivers, who was playing behind a line filled with backups.
After the Cowboys took that 21-10 lead, the San Diego offense ripped off 20 straight points with 310 yards on 37 plays. The Chargers only got to third down five times on those 37 plays, and converted three times against the Cowboys zone.
Rivers was hardly pressured, and he was able to toy with the secondary with receivers Allen, Brown, Royal, Woodhead (two touchdowns) and Antonio Gates (56-yard touchdown).
Can’t stay on the field: Offensively the Dallas Cowboys ran just seven plays in the third quarter.
Their second possession of the second half lasted only seven plays because a Ronald Leary holding penalty negated a first-down catch by Cole Beasley at the San Diego 32. Two plays later Jason Witten couldn’t hold on to a seam throw from Tony Romo and the Cowboys were forced to punt. The Chargers answered with Gates’ back-breaking touchdown.
The Cowboys’ third possession of the second half ended at the Chargers’ goal line when rookie receiver Terrance Williams fumbled, ending any chances for a miracle comeback.
What’s next: Peyton Manning visits AT&T Stadium for the first time when the Denver Broncos come to town, and it is only the second time Manning will play in the area as a pro. Manning brought the 9-0 Indianapolis Colts to Texas Stadium on Nov. 19, 2006, and lost 21-14.
After a convincing victory over St. Louis at home, the Cowboys head to San Diego to face the Chargers with designs on improving their record to 3-1 for the first time since 2008. Dallas will hope to take advantage of the Chargers’ weak pass defense and beat-up offensive line. Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
Before DeMarco Murray rushed for 175 yards – the second-highest total of his career – the Cowboys spent the previous week fending off criticism of their woeful ground attack. Now that it appears their running game has been resuscitated, the Cowboys have to prove their performance in their 31-7 victory over St. Louis wasn’t a fluke. They’ll have a good chance to do that against the Chargers, who are yielding 130 rushing yards per game – the fifth-highest average in the NFL.
When the Cowboys pass
It seems to have gone largely unnoticed, but Tony Romo is off to a nice start in 2013. Only Peyton Manning has completed a higher percentage of his pass attempts than Romo, who also has thrown one interception. Romo was particularly effective in a 31-7 victory over St. Louis last Sunday, contributing three touchdown passes. The Chargers have conceded 340.7 passing yards per game – the highest average in the league. They have also allowed 16 completions of 20 yards or more.
When the Chargers run
San Diego’s rushing attack hasn’t been great. The Chargers have gained 102.7 yards per game on the ground – an average that is 18th-best in the NFL. But they have had only four negative running plays – the lowest total in the league. That bodes well for the Chargers against a Dallas defense that has yielded 199 rushing yards – the second-fewest in the NFL this season. Whether San Diego can get any big gains out of its running game remains in doubt. So far, they’ve produced only one carry of 20 yards or more.
When the Chargers pass
Philip Rivers has looked great the first three weeks of the season. He has avoided the costly mistakes that bit him in years past, throwing eight touchdown passes and only one interception. He’s also completed 70 percent of his passes. Rivers is only as good as his protection is. And the Chargers’ line will have its work cut out against a Cowboys defense that has produced 13 sacks – the second-highest total in the NFL this season.
The Cowboys’ special teams reverted to the poor form they showed in the preseason last Sunday in their victory over St. Louis. Dwayne Harris fumbled away a punt and Dan Bailey missed a 35-yard field goal. The coach who presides over these players, Rich Bisaccia, returns to San Diego, where he worked the previous two seasons. He’ll want the Cowboys to have a better showing than the one they had against the Rams. They may be able to take advantage of the Chargers’ Nick Novak, who has produced only one touchback in 17 kickoffs.
The Cowboys seems to like Southern California. It’s a place where they have trained in the preseason. And it’s also one where they’ve won. In San Diego, Dallas is 4-1. In fact the Cowboys haven’t lost there since November 1983. It’s a surprising fact considering the Chargers have the 11th-highest home winning percentage since 2000. But the Cowboys appear to be comfortable in San Diego.
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When: Sunday, September 29nd, 2013 at 3:25 (Dallas time)
Where: Qualcomm Stadium San Diego, CA
Watch on TV: FOX and DIRECTV: 709
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Regular readers already know that The Boys Are Back blog features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini. Last week, our “exalted one” was pretty much dead-on with his predictions.
Last weeks win over the ‘other’ Missouri team gives us die-hard Cowboys fans (and Demarco Murray) reason to celebrate. We’ve seen the sudden emergence of a running game and a havoc causing Texas-2 defense coming into their own identity. Today’s game in San Diego should feel like a Dallas Cowboys home game with the heavy fan base in sunny Southern California. Bruised Romo should be in better shape this week. While Miles Austin sits on the bench with his hamstring, Jason Garrett will ask next-men-up Terrence Williams, Dwayne Harris, and Cole Beasley to take up the slack. In the trenches, right guard Brian Waters is expected to start … and Mackenzy Bernadeau will be suited up as backup for both guard positions. The Dallas front-four will be without Anthony Spencer for the remainder of the 2013-2014 NFL season … but, Marinelli’s hungry linemen have shown they are up to the task through the first three games.
The GREAT Robbini is psyched about the Cowboys – Chargers incoming vibe… and ready to share his prognostications that we all count on from week-to-week. Without further delay, it’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions. OK, here we go …
The GREAT Robbini’s – 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys week #4 predictions:
Cowboys set up shop in San Diego, Qualcomm stadium looks like ‘home away from home’
The Dallas Cowboys, on a mission to fuel up their game before hosting “unstoppable” Denver, get behind the wheel in Norv’s old town. They’ll head back to Big D, with plenty in the tank and a ‘W’ in the trunk. Expect a high octane performances from Dez, Demarco, TE group and Kiffin’s boys.
Predictions for the Texas 2 Defense …
- 3 takeaways
- DeMarcus Ware 3 sacks
- J.J. Wilcox 1 sack
- Brandon Carr INT
- Jason Hatcher 2 sacks
- 6 team sacks
- Carter/Wilcox lead tackles
- 1 San Diego Charger injured
Predictions for the offense …
- Tony Romo 300 yards, 4 TDs
- Dez Bryant 75 yards, 2 TDs
- Williams 50 yards
- Beasley 30 yards
- Jason Witten 65 yards, TD
- Gavin Escobar 30 yards, TD
- James Hanna 15 yards
- Demarco Murray TD
- Rushing committee 150 yards
- Offensive line 3 penalties
- Cowboys receive opening kick
- Offense starts game with possession
- Cowboys control time of possession
The GREAT Robbini
Remember, you read it here! The Great Robbini predictions for week #4. Leave your final score or predictions in the comment section.
IRVING, Texas — You can critique his numbers, you can point out his lack of a career-defining win and you can note that his team has missed the postseason for three straight years.
One thing you can’t do, however, is criticize how well this quarterback has played to start the 2013 season.
At this point you’re probably asking yourself if we’re discussing Tony Romo or Phillip Rivers. Actually, the answer is “both.”
There has been no shortage of peaks and valleys for both franchise quarterbacks since they took starting jobs in the 2006 season. Romo and Rivers are riding high as they prepare to square off this Sunday.
The difference is probably most pronounced for Rivers – the former No. 4 overall draft pick. It seems like ages since Rivers had San Diego in annual contention for the AFC Championship. The 35 combined interceptions and 15 combined wins of the past two years offsets four straight AFC West championships — a period from about 2007-10 when he was considered one of the game’s best quarterbacks.
“In ’09 we went 13-3 and have a bye, and we get beat there in the first round. And it was downhill from there,” Rivers said. “We didn’t go to the playoffs the last three seasons, so it’s been a tough stretch.”
Even with a losing record, Rivers has avoided the turnover bug so far this season. Through three games, he’s completed 70 percent of his passes for 798 yards, eight touchdowns and – most importantly – just one interception.
The 10th-year veteran said the difference has come in not forcing the ball.
“I think the one thing I’ve learned is, when you have so many games that you lose that are close, and you lose four, five, six in a row like we’ve done the past few years, you can start trying to make every play and try to will things to work that aren’t there,” Rivers said.
That’s probably a testament to Rivers’ competitive streak. Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the most telling part of Rivers’ game was his competitiveness, and he wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
“He’s a quarterback, but he’s got a D-Line mentality – he’s just a dog, man,” said defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. “He’s a competitor, he’s tough, he talks noise. It starts with him, so they go as he goes.”
The Chargers might not be trending the same direction as Rivers, but it’s not for lack of trying. The Chargers sit at 11th in the league in total offense, and they’re only a handful of plays away from having a much different record. It took a 17-point rally for the Texans to down San Diego in Week 1, and the Titans needed a 94-yard drive in the last two minutes to grab a win against the Chargers.
“It’s been a heck of a start, in the sense that every game has come down to the wire,” Rivers said.
The story is similar for Romo, though for different reasons. After tying a career high in 2012 with 19 interceptions, Romo has been the model of efficiency to start this year. His completion percentage of 72.2 is second only to Peyton Manning (and, fittingly enough, one in front of Rivers). On top of that, he’s managed six touchdowns to just one pick – a pick that came from a miscommunication with a rookie receiver (Williams).
Romo said this week it’s a result of better protection. He has been sacked just five times this season, and he hasn’t had to make many throws under pressure.
“If you’re throwing 50 balls and you’ve got 20 of them, 25 of them under duress, it’s just bound to have negative effects throughout football games,” Romo said. “When you’re trailing like we have been in the past –things of that nature, for any quarterback, it happens across the league every week.”
It’s just one more similarity in a career full of them between the two. Both quarterbacks took the starting job in 2006, and in that span are within 2,000 career passing yards, 14 career touchdowns and two career interceptions of each other.
They’ve each had four 4,000-plus yard passing seasons, and they’ve each had two 30-plus touchdown campaigns. The congruencies, both positive and negative, have generated plenty of mutual respect.
“He’s the kind of quarterback that, no lead is ever big enough, and he can be in the toughest of situations but he finds a way. So he’s always fun to watch,” Rivers said.
Added Romo: “Phil has been a good quarterback for a long time. I think he does a good job getting through progressions, and he gives his team a chance really every week he plays.”
Ironically enough, a mistake this weekend by either one could determine the game in favor of the other
Thoughts leading up to the Dallas Cowboys vs. San Diego Chargers game …
Edgar Jones on the verge
With the loss of Anthony Spencer for the season, there are a couple of ways the Dallas Cowboys can make up for his loss along the defensive line. There is no question George Selvie will continue to start at left end but who backs him up might be in question.
Caesar Rayford might be that guy, but keep an eye on Edgar Jones at that spot. Jones has impressed several coaches with his ability to get off on the ball and attack up the field. He has shown some quality pass rush moves, and he has the size and length like Selvie to hold up on the edge in the running game. His overall game appears to be tailored to this 4-3 scheme.
Shadows of the Hatcher-Hayden punch
The pattern of these defensive coaches has been telling. When they get a new player, they work him in practice, then they sit him in the game. There is a chance that process might change with the addition of Drake Nevis this week, as he has been getting reps with the second defense. It’s more likely that we will see David Carter, who has been with the club a week longer, play as the backup defensive tackle. Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden are the starters and last week Jerome Long and Caesar Rayford were the backups. Jerome Long was waived to make room for Nevis, so Rayford could fill in along with Carter – but Nevis could see action as well. The big question here for Nevis is how much of the defense has he learned this week, and are the coaches comfortable playing him?
The James Hanna factor
A lot has been said about the early development of Gavin Escobar and what has been seen from his game. It’s easy to like what this “12 personnel” package could bring to the game, especially with James Hanna in the mix. Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan will look to create matchup problems with the 32nd ranked Chargers pass defense, and Hanna should be able to do just that. Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano might be forced to bring pressure with his linebackers in order to provide a consistent pass rush, which means Jason Witten, Hanna and Escobar will be required to run shorter routes to help Romo get the ball off. Hanna has yet to have one of those games that, before the season, we all felt he was capable of. It could happen Sunday afternoon.
DeMarco Murray’s third-dimension
When scouting running backs in the NFL, you want them not only to run and catch but you want them to be able to help in pass protection. With the Chargers 3-4 defensive alignment, Tony Romo is going to need not only his five offensive linemen doing their jobs, but DeMarco Murray as well. As important as it is for Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick to know who to block, Murray has to be just as good. The Chargers will bring several different looks out of their nickel package and the majority of the reading will fall on the shoulders of Murray. If he misses an assignment or slides the wrong way on the protection, there is a pretty good chance that Romo will be sacked. All week long while the team has worked on blitz pickup, Murray has been right there sorting out blitzes while the offensive line makes its adjustments. In watching Murray play in this area, he is usually technique-sound and assignment sure. He did have a bust in the preseason game against Cincinnati that resulted in a sack, but since then there have been no issues. People tend to judge backs just on how they carry the football in a game, but if you look closely, the big plays are usually a result of a back making a blitz pickup. DeMarco Murray will have that chance against the Chargers on Sunday.
JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE: 2013-14 Dallas Cowboys vs. San Diego Chargers–Injury and practice update
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media from Valley Ranch as his team continues their preparations for the San Diego Chargers. Garrett discussed:
- Miles Austin and Dwayne Harris practice update
- Rookie WR Terrance Williams development and NFL transition
- Preparing for San Diego OL injuries
- WR Cole Beasley plans in SD game
- RB Joseph Randall’s progress
- Blitz pickups for rookies, multiple fronts,
- Barry Church growing reputation
- Thoughts Safety tandem long-term
- Changes with Chargers from last year’s Norv Turner system
- Simms status
- Fake punt sequence vs. St Louis Rams last week
- NY Yankees and Dallas Cowboys connection
- Rod Marinelli’s amusing nicknames for players
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IRVING, Texas – Make that three straight days without Miles Austin at Cowboys practice and that’s not a good sign for his availability for Sunday’s game in San Diego.
Austin was held out again for todays (Friday’s) practice, likely meaning he could miss this week with a hamstring injury.
The wide receiver left last week’s game with the St. Louis Rams in the third quarter with the hamstring injury after awkwardly going to the ground on a pass he caught out of bounds. Coach Jason Garrett said after the game Austin did not re-enter the game because of the lopsided score. However, it seems clear Austin remains slowed by the injury enough to miss a full week of practice.
While the Dallas Cowboys don’t have a definite rule on players missing practice and playing in the games Sunday, it seems unlikely Austin would be ready to go at this point.
Even so, the club is getting Terrance Williams ready to make his first start. Ironically enough, his last collegiate game was also played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, the site of the Holiday Bowl. Williams had two catches for 68 yards for Baylor.
The Cowboys are also monitoring the health of wide receiver Dwayne Harris, who is also the punt returner. Harris was slowed some this week with a hip pointer injury but returned to practice Friday. Harris’ injury has opened the door for Cole Beasley, who not only will play more in three-wide packages, but could be the primary punt returner as well.
For now, the Cowboys don’t appear ready to sign a practice squad receiver to the roster. The team has Tim Benford and Jamar Newsome on the practice squad.
JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE: 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. San Diego Chargers–Second road trip of season
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media from Valley Ranch as his team continues their preparations for the San Diego Chargers.
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Be glad Saturday night’s game against the Chargers didn’t count, because this one really might have been the refs’ faults.
Saturday night’s Cowboys-Chargers game had the worst call of the preseason so far — a preseason that is being officiated by replacement officials.
On a pass to Cowboys receiver Andre Holmes, Chargers safety Eric Weddle applied an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit. The ball bounced around and Chargers linebacker Donald Butler came up with the interception before it hit the ground.
Following yet another extended discussion after the play, the officials gave the ball to San Diego and marked off the personal foul against the Chargers for the illegal hit. The correct move, as anyone who pays attention to NFL football knows, would have been to wipe out the interception, give the ball back to the Cowboys, and mark off the penalty against the Chargers from the previous spot.
The article goes on to point out that it’s a more embarrassing gaffe, since under the new rules, all turnovers are subject to review, and even after a replay review, none of the officials properly returned the ball to the Cowboys and wiped away the interception.
We all know preseason wins and losses don’t count, but you can bet Kyle Orton would love to have that interception next to his name erased, and a number of Cowboy receivers on the 53-man roster bubble would have liked one more red-zone opportunity to get a key touchdown that could bring them one step closer to a roster spot.
And so the Cowboys lost what should have been a first down on the San Diego 15 with 53 seconds left in the second quarter.
Even though this game didn’t count, we’ve got a feeling that the league office will be hearing from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne listens to music prior to the game in San Diego. Michael Ainsworth/Staff Photographer
Morris Claiborne had that moment – when he knew he was in the NFL – right away.
He saw Robert Meacham of the Chargers lined up against him.
Then, tight end Antonio Gates.
The Cowboys’ No. 1 pick knew – he was in the NFL.
“A couple of months ago, these were guys I was looking at, ‘Man, those guys are beasts,’ ” Claiborne said. “Just to be in front of those guys and play with those guys, it’s just been a blessing for me to even be here, be in this moment. I’m just trying to seize the moment.”
Saturday night’s game was the first preseason action for Claiborne, the Cowboys’ No. 1 pick, who missed close to two weeks of padded practices in training camp with a knee injury.
He said he had a good game mentally. “I didn’t blow any assignments,” he said.
And he got confirmation from one of the Chargers.
“Meacham walked by me and tapped me on the side, was like, ‘Good job,’ on one of the plays,” Claiborne said, breaking into a grin as he spoke to reporters. “I looked back. ‘Wow!’ You know?
But Claiborne said he put the compliment aside and went to back to work.
“I know what I have to do. I know all the people who are counting on me,” Claiborne said, describing how he was able to keep his focus. “So I can’t just get out there and be star-struck. ’cause those guys, they don’t care. They know who they are. If you’re a rookie, those guys are going to come at you and give you 100 percent. I just got to put that beside me. It’s easy for me to do. Just go out there and play football.”
For the record, Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale (an undrafted free agent from North Texas) pronounces his name this way: juh-MAZE oh-lah-WALL-ee. It probably is a name that Cowboys’ fans should begin learning to recognize, and pronounce, as the 2012 season unfolds.
Olwawale (6-foot-1, 238 pounds) arrived in camp targeted to be a possible backup to starting fullback Lawrence Vickers. But the broken hand of Phillip Tanner, the projected No. 3 running back heading into camp, an opportunity for extra carries and Olawale has led the team in rushing in both pre-season games. He scored the team’s first touchdown in Saturday’s 28-20 loss to San Diego on a powerful, 2-yard run between the tackles.
A receiver in college, he also caught four passes for 30 yards against the Chargers and has the size and skills to be an effective blocker.
Olawale’s emergence contributed to Friday’s release of former TCU running back Ed Wesley, who had struggled in camp, before Wesley ever touched the ball in a pre-season game. Olawale’s versatility will make it hard for coaches to drop him from the team’s 53-man roster if he continues to perform the way he has in Dallas’ first two pre-season games and in training camp practices.
“He really has (stepped up) throughout training camp,” said coach Jason Garrett. “He came in more as a fullback candidate, but has also shown that he can be a big back. He’s played a lot as a halfback. He’s played in third-down situations. He’s really done some positive things running the football for us.”
“They’re giving me a fair shot,” said Olawale, who declared it “nice to get my first NFL touchdown” against the Chargers. “I feel like I was able to slow things down a little bit (in his mind). Everything’s still moving fast … I’m here to play where they want me to play. I try to be a team player and help them win however I can. Obviously, we didn’t do that (against San Diego). I fee like I failed in that aspect.”
Of course, the bottom line for pre-season games is about player evaluations more than wins and losses. And Olawale’s stock is rising with Cowboys’ coaches. Fans might want to learn to pronounce his name. Just in case.
RELATED: Is there a role for Jamize Olawale?
Raise your hand if you had Jamize Olawale scoring the Dallas Cowboys’ first touchdown of the preseason.
Olawale probably wouldn’t raise his hand either. His last touchdown came at El Camino Junior College. His last rushing touchdown came in high school.
With 8:32 left in the second quarter, Olawale, a wide receiver at North Texas turned fullback with the Cowboys and moved to tailback because of injuries in training camp, bulled his way into the end zone from 2 yards with some serious help from the offensive line.
For a team that scored just five rushing touchdowns in 2011, it was a good thing.
At 6-foot-1, 238 pounds, Olawale is the Cowboys’ biggest runner, but there’s still a long way to go before he makes it on the final roster.
“I think they’re trying to evaluate me and see where I fit,” Olawale said. “Any place I can fit on the team, I’m going to try to give 100 percent every play. However I can help the team, I’m down to help.
He did make one mistake after he scored.
“My brother told me to keep the ball and I forgot,” Olawale said. “In the moment I don’t know what I did with the ball.”
Todd Archer | ESPN Dallas
Editors comment: TBAB is showing a little love for actor Ron Palillo, who played class clown Arnold Horshack on the 1970s television comedy "Welcome Back, Kotter". Palillo died of a heart attack in the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on Tuesday. Source: CNN
The final statistics show Cole Beasley leading the Dallas Cowboys in receiving with seven catches for 104 yards in Saturday’s 28-20 preseason loss to the San Diego Chargers.
The bulk of those catches came in the second half, but it was still an impressive performance for the rookie wideout from SMU.
However, after making a second-half catch, Beasley, well, got sick.
"I was tired," he said. "But the reason I came off was because I landed on the ball and the ball knocked the wind out of me and made me have to throw up a little bit. Being tired had a little bit to do wit hit, but it was more the ball knocking the air out of me. You’ll probably see me throw up a lot more than just then. I throw up a lot before the games, too. I’m not ashamed of it at all. I just happened to land on the ball and it made some stuff come out of me."
Sickness aside, Beasley moved up the charts in the No. 3 receiver battle.
Kevin Ogletree also had a strong performance with four catches for 60 yards, and Dwayne Harris caught a touchdown pass among his four receptions.
"Yes, one day at a time is my approach," Ogletree said. "Just getting better every chance I get, never looking down or behind me or ahead of me or at the numbers, just growing every day as a player and as a person, and that’s really helping me."
As of now, Beasley is getting first-team snaps as the slot receiver. Coach Jason Garrett noted the rookie is quarterback-friendly and does a good job of finding open spots in zone coverage.
"Yeah, I got to catch the ball and run with it a little bit," Beasley said. "So I think it was a good performance."
Score the second dress rehearsal of the pre-season a significant upgrade for Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo and the first-team offense in Saturday’s 28-20 loss to San Diego.
Romo played the first quarter, completed 9-of-13 passes for 75 yards, and was not sacked. None of his starting receivers took a big hit, much less departed with an injury (Jason Witten, Monday in Oakland).
With Romo in the game, the Cowboys produced 102 yards, drove for a field goal and converted a fourth-and-1 situation with a 10-yard slant to Dez Bryant. It could have been better if not for two holding penalties.
By comparison, the Cowboys’ first-team offense had 14 net yards in 11 snaps in last week’s 3-0 victory over the Raiders.
“Yeah, we moved it good,” Romo said. “But we hurt ourselves with penalties and, as a football team, we need to correct that. It is very hard to score points … We have to get that (penalty issue) corrected or otherwise we have no chance.”
Penalty problems: The Cowboys were penalized nine times for 86 yards after drawing 12 flags for 91 yards against Oakland.
Olawale shines again: Jamize Olawale, an undrafted free agent from North Texas, made his presence felt as a rusher and receiver for a second consecutive game. Olawale scored a second-quarter touchdown, the Cowboys’ first of the pre-season, on a 2-yard blast. He also grabbed four passes and turned up some heat on Phillip Tanner, who is out with a broken hand, in the battle to be the team’s third running back. Olawale (10 carries, 30 yards) led the team in rushing for a second consecutive game in the pre-season.
"He really has shown that throughout training camp," said coach Jason Garrett. "He came in more as a fullback candidate. But he has also shown he can be a big back. He’s played a lot as a halfback, he’s played in third-down situations. He’s really done some positive things running the football for us."
Defensive streak ends: It will not matter in September but the Cowboys’ defense put together a scoreless streak of 94 minutes, 30 seconds to begin the pre-season. That was broken when San Diego receiver Vincent Brown grabbed an 18-yard touchdown pass with 10:30 remaining in the third quarter. Dallas led, 10-0, at the time and none of the Cowboys’ defensive starters were still in the game.
Claiborne debut: Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, the team’s first-round pick, started and played the first half. He made the tackle on the first pass thrown in his area, a 5-yard receiver screen, and lined up at both cornerback spots. He had no pass breakups but neither did any other Dallas defender while Claiborne was in the game.
During the first half, Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers threw 15 passes and none of them hit the ground. He completed 13 and had two interceptions, both by Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones said he liked Claiborne’s debut and envisions him following Carr’s lead in time.
“We’ve seen him do the same kind of play that we saw Carr do,” Jones said. “They are centerfielders. He can play that ball, too. You need those kind of big plays.”
Third receiver battle: Cole Beasley, an undersized free agent from SMU, grabbed nine passes for 104 yards in the contest, most of them against the Chargers’ reserves. But the best showing by someone battling to claim the third receiver spot came from veteran Kevin Ogletree (4 catches, 60 yards), whose 35-yard reception set up a touchdown.
Jerry Jones said Ogletree may be the team’s fastest receiver and projects as “the logical third guy” in the offense.
McGee’s mistake: Quarterback Stephen McGee threw a fourth-quarter interception into double-coverage that was returned 73 yards by Shareece Wright to set up the Chargers’ go-ahead touchdown. McGee later lost a fumble when blindsided by Wright on a corner blitz.
Murray gets wish: Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray said earlier this week that he wanted a heavier work load against San Diego than he received Monday against Oakland (2 carries, no yards). That happened by the fourth snap, with three of the Cowboys’ first four plays featuring Murray (two runs, one pass). The team’s starter handled the ball on five of the first six plays, producing 30 yards, before yielding the field to backup Felix Jones.
Sitting out: A total of 19 Cowboys missed the game because of injuries, including eight starters (WR Miles Austin, C Phil Costa, G Nate Livings, TE Jason Witten, NT Jay Ratliff, LB Anthony Spencer, LB DeMarcus Ware, DT Jason Hatcher). Also out: WR Saalim Hakim, CB Mike Jenkins, RB Lance Dunbar, RB Phillip Tanner, S Matt Johnson, LB Isiah Greenhouse, LB Kyle Wilber, LB Caleb McSurdy, C/G Kevin Kowalski, OT Jermey Parnell and WR Danny Coale.
Still perfect: Dan Bailey hit both of his field-goal attempts, from 40 and 49 yards. He is 3-for-3 in the pre-season.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, the team’s first-round draft pick, did not wow himself with Saturday’s performance in his first NFL pre-season game against the San Diego Chargers. The stats show two tackles, both after short completions, in two quarters of action.
He made no big plays. But no one torched him for a big play, either.
“Was I great? No. But I feel like I played a good half in my first NFL game,” said Claiborne, who reported no physical issues involved with his surgically-repaired wrist or his knee, which he sprained in training camp. “I know there’s going to be more to come. I’ve just got to keep working and get better.”
The part that satisfied Claiborne was how he handled his mental responsibilities in his first game in a Dallas uniform.
“I think I did good. I didn’t blow any assignments,” Claiborne said. “So I think the mental part was pretty good.”
Teammates thought the rookie, who was taken with the sixth overall pick in the NFL Draft, more than acquitted himself in his Cowboys’ debut.
Asked what he thought of Claiborne’s play, linebacker Victor Butler said: “That we probably should have picked him up No. 4 overall, He’s a tremendous asset to the defense. This was his first game and he’s only getting his feet wet. He hasn’t fully dived into the pool yet. I’m truly excited to see what he has to offer.”
Butler said he is excited about the prospect of having Claiborne and free-agent signee Brandon Carr, who had two interceptions against the Chargers, locking down the Cowboys’ corners in 2012.
“With him and Brandon Carr back there, we should be getting coverage sacks out the wazoo this year,” Butler said.
Carr said Claiborne handled the moment, in his estimation.
“The lights weren’t bright for him. It wasn’t a big moment for him,” Carr said. “He kept his poise very well. He went out there and battled. He made some tackles. He finally got his first taste of NFL receivers and I can’t wait to get back home and see what he does in Cowboys Stadium.”
The Cowboys play their first pre-season game at home Aug. 25 against the St. Louis Rams.
Progress is definitely being made.
If the first preseason, a thrilling 3-0 affair in Oakland, was a study in frustration and worry for the Cowboys faithful, then the team’s performance in San Diego on Saturday at least showed signs of excitement and hope, especially concerning the first-teamers.
With nine starters out of the lineup, tender hamstrings seemingly the largest culprit, Dallas lost to the Chargers 28-20, their preseason record falling to 1-1. But the Cowboys’ defense, and in particular cornerback Brandon Carr, gave notice that they might be a force to be reckoned with in 2012.
Even with DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher not in the lineup, the first-unit group held the Chargers to only 69 total yards, never allowing San Diego to cross the 50-yard line. Taking center stage in the effort was Carr, who grabbed not one, but two interceptions in his quarter-and-a-half of play.
On the first grab, Carr was admittedly beaten on the route, wide receiver Robert Meachem getting behind the defense. But an underthrown ball by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers allowed Carr to gain ground and time his jump perfectly to bring down the pick.
The second interception was nothing short of a circus catch. Literally. Carr tipped a pass, then tipped it again, and again, finally completing his juggling act with another prized turnover.
Being able to go and get the ball is why Dallas opened the checkbook for the free agent Carr back in March. He and rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne, who was making his NFL debut, have all the makings of a dramatically upgraded secondary for the Cowboys this season.
"The first unit did pretty good,” said Carr. “We shut them out once again. It was good to go against Philip Rivers one more time and get the two picks off him this time. But the guys were just flying around trying to make plays on the ball.”
Meanwhile on the other side of the line, the first-team offense showed improvement from its near dysfunctional effort against the Raiders in the preseason opener. Quarterback Tony Romo, who finished the game with 75 yards on 9-of-13 passing, had a clean pocket for most of the two series in which he was in the game, although his own deft moves helped his own cause.
Romo was able to get his side into field goal range midway through the first quarter, Dan Bailey seemingly in midseason form with a 40-yard field goal to give Dallas a 3-0 lead.
"Yeah, I thought some of the young guys stepped up and played pretty good tonight,” said Romo. “I think our offense is continuing to get better and better each week, and I like the direction we are heading, but we have to eliminate the mistakes.”
DeMarco Murray, back from an ankle injury that cut short his 2011 campaign, also looked solid in his one possession of work, catching two passes for 18 yards. He also had two runs that went for just seven yards, but made something out of nothing in both instances.
The point being, Romo and Murray can make even an average line look good.
But the preseason is also about earning roster spots, and one in particular stepped up and made solid a solid case for himself – Kevin Ogletree.
One of the biggest question marks still to be determined is who will be the Cowboys’ third receiver. And although Ogletree is the veteran of the contending bunch, he has been perhaps the most overlooked. Not any more. He had a solid night, finishing with 60 yards on four receptions, including a tough 35-yard catch down the middle that saw him get hit by two defenders but still hang onto the ball.
There is, of course, still much to be determined in the wideout ranks. After all, rookie Cole Beasley led all receivers with 104 yards on seven catches and Dwayne Harris picked up 42 yards on four receptions of his own. But Ogletree made it known tonight that he’s the lead horse in the race for the third position … for now.
Beasley and Harris did most of their damage in the second half, when little else went particularly well for the team. Rob Ryan saw his defense’s shutout streak come to an end soon after the third quarter got underway. They hadn’t given up a point and had surrendered only 376 yards of total offense through six quarters of play, but with the regulars calling it a night, the second unit allowed the Chargers to come out of the break and march 80 yards on 10 plays for a score, the lead narrowed to 10-7.
Dallas got on the board late in that same frame thanks to a fumble recovery from linebacker Orie Lemon, who gave the Cowboys field position at the San Diego 35. The offense was unable to pick up a first down, but Bailey came out again, this time for a 49-yarder, and put three more points on the board.
And then the wheels fell off for the Cowboys, as San Diego put up 21 points in the fourth quarter to run away with the game. Two of those touchdowns came after Stephen McGee turnovers, one on an interception and the other a fumble after the quarterback took a big hit from behind.
With Rudy Carpenter taking the helm, Dallas did manage to get in the end zone with 53 seconds left on the clock, Wright catching a pass from 15 yards out to wrap up the scoring, 28-20.
Dallas will now stay in San Diego for two days of workouts with the Chargers before returning home for the annual Silver & Blue Debut, a practice open to the public that will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Kurt Daniels | Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine
RELATED: Jamize Olawale, rookie FB turned RB, impresses in San Diego
Which player fighting for a roster spot made a positive impression? His name is hard to pronounce. But now people know it. That’s a positive sign for Jamize Olawale, the Cowboys’ rookie fullback-turned-running back. A 6-1, 238-pound product of North Texas, Olawale has the size and strength pound away at opponents. During the second quarter, he demonstrated that might when he barged into the end zone and finished off a two-yard run that resulted in the Cowboys’ first touchdown of the preseason. But Olawale isn’t just powerful. He’s also quick. Olawale flashed that acceleration on a 10-yard pass from Romo in the first quarter, turning up field to gain a first down.
Photos: Rainer Sabin
The Dallas Cowboys face the San Diego Chargers in the second game of the preseason. Here’s a preview:
Who’s not playing: It would take you an hour to figure out who’s not playing for the Cowboys. We give you the highlights: OLB DeMarcus Ware, OLB Anthony Spencer, WR Miles Austin, TE Jason Witten, G Nate Livings, NT Jay Ratliff and C Phil Costa are the projected starters who will miss the game.
The starters play how much, again?: Jason Garrett wanted the first-team offense to go about 8-to-10 plays in the preseason opener at Oakland. Tonight, maybe into the second quarter, with center David Arkin expected to go into the third, maybe fourth quarter. When Arkin comes out, expect Harland Gunn to take over the center snaps. With second-team tackle Jeremy Parnell out, Jeff Adams slide in and take some snaps. Safety Barry Church played with the second team a little bit at Oakland. It could continue again.
Who needs to play well: It’s easy to say everybody, but based off the Raiders game and the last two days of practice, we’ve come up with a few names: WR Raymond Radway, CB Morris Claiborne, DE Marcus Spears, DE Kenyon Coleman, CB Mario Butler and G Ronald Leary.
Mo debuts: First-round pick Morris Claiborne will make his NFL debut at the Chargers. He’s not sure if he’ll start, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Cowboys come out in a three-cornerback setup with Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr alongside Claiborne. The rookie needs the snaps against different competition and he might play the entire first half. He’s battled Dez Bryant, Kevin Ogletree among others for nearly two weeks of practices, when he’s been healthy, so it will be interesting to see him against someone else.
About the series: If you’re scoring at home, this is the 14th meeting between the teams. Dallas holds the preseason series advantage at 7-6. The Chargers won the last meeting, in 2009, 20-17.
RELATED: Five players to watch vs. San Diego Chargers
Preseason game No. 2 kicks off tonight at Qualcomm Stadium against San Diego Chargers and for some players their time to make an impression is running out.
Here is a look at five guys to watch:
Alex Albright – He was everywhere against Oakland on Monday, credited with a game-high nine tackles, and he will start tonight because of DeMarcus Ware’s absence due to a slight hamstring strain. Albright is a virtual lock to make the team, but he can show he can be a regular contributor on the defense with a good performance. He will also play some inside linebacker again, which would help the team’s ability to carry more players at other positions when they make the final cuts.
Mario Butler – After a so-so offseason, Butler has done much better when the pads came on. He is not the fastest or quickest, but he has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. He understands his limitations and stays out of trouble. He can play in the slot some and has taken some turns at safety. As the Cowboys ponder how many corners and safeties to keep, Butler could be that swing guy the way Alan Ball was a swing guy for a few seasons.
Ronald Leary – He came in with a lot of acclaim as an undrafted free agent but he has leveled off over the last week of camp. Against Oakland he tired and did not fire off the ball as well as he had been earlier in camp. The Cowboys have guaranteed him $214,000, a high number for an undrafted player, so he should make the team, but with a good showing tonight he could still work his way into the starting lineup or at least one of the active offensive linemen on Sundays.
Kevin Ogletree – Nobody likes hearing this but Ogletree has had a nice camp. Of the guys competing for the No. 3 receiver spot he has the most ability to play as a starter should something happen to Miles Austin or Dez Bryant. He does not help much on special teams but if he can prove to be reliable and make plays regardless of the quarterback tonight, he can cement a spot on the roster. Even with Andre Holmes good outing vs. the Raiders, Ogletree is still the leader for the No. 3 spot.
Mana Silva – He was a late-season pickup in 2011 after he was signed of Buffalo’s practice squad and had four special teams’ tackles. He had an interception to clinch the win at Oakland on Monday and Rob Ryan is intrigued about this prospect. Silva, however, will need to make his mark on special teams to make a dent because the Cowboys still like Matt Johnson’s potential even though the fourth-round pick has taken part in one full-padded practice in camp.