The Cowboys Show Improvement In San Diego
By: Tommy Smith
If training camp is about getting better each week, the Dallas Cowboys did work before they broke camp in Oxnard. After a lackluster preseason opener in Oakland last week, the Cowboys showed improvement in all three areas as Head Coach Jason Garrett likes to say. Dallas took the train south along the Pacific Coast to San Diego to face the Chargers in game two of the preseason. Though the Chargers won the game 28-20 in the end, the Cowboys have many more positives to take from this game than last week’s 3-0 win in against the Raiders.
The Cowboys first team offense held the ball for much of the first quarter as Tony Romo looked crisp from the pocket hitting Dez Bryant, Demarco Murray, Kevin Ogletree and SMU rookie Cole Beasley on nice passes. “Well, I think number one, we took a little bit of time looking at these guys this week and that always helps.” Romo said after his playing time. “We had some guys step up.” Romo finished the night playing one-quarter while going 9-17 passing for 75 yards. Kicker Dan Bailey capped the Cowboy-dominated first quarter with a 40 yard field goal, putting Dallas up 3-0 with 58 ticks remaining in the first.
The Cowboys increased their lead shortly into the third quarter after Brandon Carr notched his first interception with the team by picking off Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Kyle Orton took over under center for Dallas and promptly moved the team from the Dallas 34 yard line to the Chargers’ two yard line in six plays. The key connection on the drive was a 35 yard pass play from Orton to Ogletree that set the Cowboys up with a first and goal from the Chargers four yard line. Running back Jamize Olawale, who has impressed as a back-up runner, took the next two carries for two yards a pop and found paydirt from the two on second down. That marked the first Cowboys TD in 2012 and put Dallas up 10-0. The Dallas offense was responsible for 205 yards in the first half. That was a far cry from the woeful performance last week against the Raiders.
While the Cowboys first team offense impressed for the first time, the starting defense continued to play well. Carr picked off Rivers again in the second quarter, leading to six shut out quarters put up by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s squad headed to halftime. San Diego broke the scoreless streak by the Dallas “D” with 7:30 left in the third quarter to draw within in a field goal trailing 10-7. Ryan’s defense would implode a bit in the second half but many of the starters had long since been removed from the game.
Morris Claiborne saw action opposite Carr at the other corner for the first time as a Cowboy. The Cowboys’ number one draft pick has been hampered by injury thus far in camp. Claiborne was credited with two solo tackles on the night.
As in most preseason games, the bulk of the second half was fodder for the “Turk”. Olawale continued to carry the rock well and has a shot to make this team. The Cowboys have hopes for fellow University of North Texas former running back Lance Dunbar to make a push at the back up spot and in the return game, but injuries may have cost Dunbar a shot at making the 53 man roster. He has yet to see action in the preseason.
Beasely and Ogletree looked good as third wide receiver options, bringing a sigh of relief from the Cowboy faithful. With Miles Austin still hampered by a hamstring, Jason Witten in serious doubt with a lacerated spleen and Dez Bryant… well Dez Bryant, Dallas must have depth at the wide receiver spot.
The game got a bit ugly in the fourth as the Chargers scored 14 points in 4:25 to lead 21-13. LSU’s Jacob Hester took one in from the goal line for the Chargers to increase their lead to 28-13 with 3:02 left to play.
Stephen McGee played a majority of the second half at quarterback in for Dallas and did little to secure his expensive spot on the roster for a third QB. McGee finished 9-16 for 86 yards with one interception and a fumble. Rudy Carpenter played the last three minutes of the game and looked much better than his three plays for a loss last week in Oakland. Carpenter hit Beasley for 29 yards on a first and ten from the Cowboy 41 to move the offense into scoring position. Beasley hauled in another Carpenter pass to the 16 yard line but left the game buckled over in pain. Reportedly, Beasley was winded and had fallen on the ball but for his efforts he was named the Cowboys player of the game on the broadcast. Beasley caught seven passes for 104 yards on the night.
Four plays later, Carpenter hit second year receiver Dwayne Harris for a 15 yard touchdown with a minute left to cap the scoring 28-20 San Diego. Carpenter finished 6-9 for 78 yards and a TD.
With the numerous injuries the Cowboys are currently dealing with on the offensive line, defensive line, linebacker and now Witten, Dallas has to come out of this game pleased with how some of the depth performed. The Cowboys hope to have a few more bodies back next Saturday as they take on the St Louis Rams at Cowboys Stadium. Dallas will spend the next two days in San Diego practicing against the Chargers before they return to Valley Ranch to continue to improve in all three phases.