The Cowboys finally returned to action Saturday in their first of four preseason games. Though the scoreline didn't end favorably--a 31-17 loss--the 'Boys will be able to take away many positives from this outing.
#1: Starting offense: Drove right down the field on their only possession and made the Chargers "D" look like water. Tony "Tabloid" Romo was 3-3, Patrick Crayton had a nice 16 yard grab, and Marion Barber continued where he left off last season.
#2: Starting Defense: If you went to the bathroom after Dallas kicked the ball off to the Chargers, you would have come back to Tony Romo and the offense driving down the field...that's how quick the defense silenced San Diego. The Defensive line provided suffocating pressure on Rivers, the great LB corps stopped the run very effectively and Anthony Henry reminded us all why he is a starting cornerback.
#3: Felix Jones: Jerry Jones looks like a genius thus far, after drafting fellow Razorback Felix Jones. Not only did he display his bursting speed with 5.3 yards per carry, but also had a 28 yard reception on a screen pass. He effortlessly weaved through the defense like he had been in the league for years.
#4: Miles Austin: Sam Hurd is the player most mentioned as the new #3, but Austin showed on Saturday that he is going to make it a tougher decision for Wade Phillips. With 5 catches for 64 yards, he kepy many drives alive. Known more for his speed than his ability as a possession receiver, he displayed his versatility and played very physical and very solid. Many of his catches were not easy, either.
#5: Bobby Carpenter: The lineback from Ohio State had a sub-par season last year, but clearly showed he has since rebounded. He led the defense after the first team exited, and recorded a game-high 9 tackles. Had great reads and also showed pretty solid pass coverage.
#6: Rookie Conerbacks: Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick both played well. Jenkins got a little first team action, and played tight defense on the San Diego Wideouts. Broke up a nice pass, and had wonderful recovery speed. Scandrick was good in coverage, too. He also had a great hit on QB Charlie Whitehurst, though it gave him a temporary shoulder injury.
#7: Tashard Choice: a bit of an afterthought after Felix Jones' performance, but impressive nonetheless. He had 7 carries for 40 yards, including a 19 yard touchdown run. Choice is rumored to be playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, as he was upset about going in the 4th round of the draft after leading the ACC in rushing his final two years. We at DallasDedicated like when players want to prove their worth.
#1: Return Game: This was the biggest weakness during Saturday's outing. Danny Amendola lost a fumble on a punt return, Isiah Stanback almost was obliterated after hurdling a player on a kick return...and that was just on our side of the ball. The return defense was even worse. The Chargers had four punt returns in the game and averaged over 20 yards a return. This obviously gave them much better field position and put the defense against the wall every time. Missed tackles were everywhere, and it seemed effortless for a returner to bounce outside and turn the corner.
#2: Adam Jones: We are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, here, since he has been out of action for over a year. However, his pass coverage was sub-par and his tackling was even worse. Two missed tackles--completely missed, as in tackling the air--and a costly pass interference penalty made it a rough outing for Pacman. But, as he plays more and gets reacclimated to professional football, he will be fine.
#3: Martellus Bennet: This one will come with a grain of salt, as well. Really, he was only thrown to twice and caught one very difficult ball. The other, though, is one that sticks out in memory, since we are used to Pro Bowler Jason Witten making similar catches all the time. Bennet had the ball, but it was jarred out by a Chargers defender--something a tight end of his size should not let happen. But...it was his first game in the NFL, and he was the first to admit his mistake in a post-game interview. So we'll let it slide.
#4: Turnovers: Two key turnovers led to Charger touchdowns: Brad Johnson's interception and Danny Amendola's fumble. Without these mental errors, it is a tie game.
#5: Penalties: A huge thorn in the side from last year carried over to this game. The Cowboys were flagged 7 times for 96 yards as opposed to San Diego's 1 for 10 yards. There were two crucial pass interference pentalites (Jones and Hamlin) that put the Chargers inside the 5 yard line both times.
Overall, not a bad outing by Dallas. The squad dominated in total yards, but had too many penalties and costly turnovers. Expect both of these mishaps, along with the poor return game, to improve for the next preseason game on August 16 at Denver. Keep in mind, too, that the starting lineups effectively dominated the Chargers, who appeared in the AFC Title game last season. A much crisper, less nervous second team will surely be on display on Saturday.
OTHER DALLAS NEWS:
--Rangers closer CJ Wilson is having season-ending elbow surgery. It was clear his arm was in issue, as his ERA ballooned to 13 over his last 11 games.
--The Rangers are 6.5 games out of the wild card race, and open a crucial three game series at Boston on Tuesday. If Texas can win the series, their hopes may still be alive; if not, the Red Sox may be too hard to catch.
Michael Phelps continued his race for 8 gold medals, as he won gold in the 4X100 Freestyle relay last night (or day, in China). It was truly one of the best races in olympics history. The French, who were favored heavily, made a huge mistake by saying they were "going to smash [the U.S.]". Jason Lezak, the final leg swimmer, made them pay and set the best split ever in a 100 meter relay (46.06).