SAN DIEGO – Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray and several other Dallas Cowboys starters didn’t play Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers. Dallas lost its preseason opener, 27-7, however, that doesn’t mean much when you consider who received the majority of the playing time.
Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys’ loss in San Diego.
1.) Not a bad half for Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys’ backup quarterback completed 13 of 17 passes for 107 yards, a TD and posted a 111.6 QB rating. If Romo’s back can’t hold up, Weeden could be on the field a lot this season. He did pretty well against San Diego’s defense, especially considering he didn’t have Bryant, Murray and Witten to help carry the load. Weeden’s performance was probably the biggest positive of the night for Dallas.
"I thought Brandon Weeden had good poise conducting some of those drives," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
2.) Jerry Jones said he thinks this year’s defense will be better than last year’s simply because he believes they couldn’t possibly be any worse. I’m not sure about that. They might not be worse, but they could very well be just as bad. It starts up front and they need better play from the line. If they can’t get significant contributions from Tyrone Crawford, Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Anthony Spencer, they’re in trouble. After watching the Cowboys defense Thursday night, you could certainly see why they made it a priority to trade up to draft DE DeMarcus Lawrence (out 8-12 weeks with foot injury) in the second round.
"Once we get everyone in, with all the pieces, it will all come together, and we will be a little more solid," Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter said. "We did a great job. We worked on our fundamentals, technique and reading our keys â it’s what we learned in training camp."
3.) Nice showing by reserve running back Joseph Randle. Last year’s fifth-round pick rushed 13 times for 50 yards in the first half. Randle also had a nice blitz pickup on Weeden’s TD pass to TE James Hanna. "I thought Joseph Randle ran the ball well," Garrett said.
Randle received the heavy workload because Murray and Lance Dunbar were healthy scratches. "Our offensive line opened up some nice holes for me, and I was just trying to fill them up," Randle said. "I was prepared for whatever. It is the preseason, I knew I was going to get a lot of work, and I was just trying to make the most of it."
4.) It was good to see Tyrone Crawford get back on the field. After missing all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon, Crawford was on the starting defensive line alongside Davon Coleman, Nick Hayden and Jeremy Mincey.
"It was great," said Crawford, who lined up at left defensive end. "I was happy to get those butterflies out of my stomach, get back on the field, get that feeling back rushing and playing the run. It was great."
Crawford added: "I felt like everyone was looking good. 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. 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."
5.) It was interesting to see so many players looking at Microsoft tablets on the sideline throughout the game. Witten and Murray were going over plays early in the fourth quarter. Romo and Scott Linehan were doing the same a few feet over from them. Thursday night was the first time the Cowboys were trying out the new technology during a game. Garrett talked earlier in the week about how the tablets allow for better organization than the typical plays on sheets of paper stapled together.
"Everyone has kind of seen it," Garrett said. "It’s not rocket science. You turn them on, scroll up and down just like a regular iPad.
"The challenge will be the technology of it. At least that was hard paper that you had. We’ll see how it responds. It’s nice to have the preseason to go through it."