Sunday, August 22, 2010
Cowboys-Chargers observation deck
By Matt Mosley
I thought the most significant thing to come out of Saturday's preseason game was the debut of Cowboys rookie linebacker Sean Lee in Dallas' 16-14 victory against San Diego. The second-round pick made back to back plays in the fourth quarter to shut down the Chargers' short-yardage running game. I wondered how he'd react to game speed, but it didn't seem to faze him. Watching him fight off a lead blocker and then tackle the tailback on his own was the most impressive play of the evening.
Now, let's look at some of other aspects of the Cowboys' win:
- Nice job by cornerback Terence Newman bouncing back from getting burned to undercut a route and intercept Philip Rivers in the first quarter. This defense looks a lot more opportunistic after three preseason games.
- The Cowboys better hope Ryan Mathews is the second coming of LaDainian Tomlinson, because he made them look bad at times Saturday night. The Chargers were able to run down hill with all three of their main backs. Wade Phillips' defense will have to work on tackling this week, because it kept bouncing off Chargers running backs. I've been a fan of Mike Tolbert's ever since he came out of Coastal Carolina. Impossible to bring him down if you go high, and Orlando Scandrick learned that lesson the hard way.
- I didn't like the looks of Gerald Sensabaugh's left shoulder injury. Keith Brooking injured his right shoulder and said it was a "mild AC strain." Neither injury is serious, but don't be shocked if they sit out the final two preseason games.
- I know that Tony Romo had linebacker Stephen Cooper closing in on him, but you can't throw that pass into the middle of the field. You'd rather see Romo take the sack in that situation, and he admitted that after the game. It wasn't a great night for Romo and the offense, but the red-zone touchdown pass to Miles Austin was a thing of beauty. Romo throws that back-shoulder fade as well as any quarterback in the league right now.
- Norv Turner burned the Cowboys with those little slip screens to Darren Sproles. He used the Cowboys' speed against them by letting DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer come free before dumping the ball over their heads. Not even Brooking could make a play in the open field as Sproles raced for daylight.
- Marion Barber and Felix Jones aren't doing much in the preseason games. Jones needs to turn some of those runs upfield quicker instead of gliding down the line of scrimmage, hoping to find a seam.
- Rookie free-agent safety Danny McCray has become a special teams phenom. I saw him make at least three tackles in coverage. He's already among the Cowboys' top two or three special-teams players, and he's not finished climbing.
- It's fun watching left tackle Doug Free get out in space on screen passes. He flattened a defender to lead the way for Barber's 8-yard reception.
- Let's give offensive tackle Robert Brewster his due. He certainly had some help at right tackle when Romo was on the field, but I thought he played pretty well. And when he moved over to the left side, Brewster did a nice job of anchoring and giving Jon Kitna a clean pocket. Backup center Phil Costa also receives kudos for some excellent work. He does a nice job on those middle screens. He's been the under-the-radar star of the offensive line in this camp. Mark that down somewhere.
- Spencer is pretty much impossible to block right now. He had one sack wiped out because of defensive holding, but he was constantly in the face of Rivers or Billy Volek. He's poised to have a huge season.
- During my time in Oxnard, Calif., last week, I kept telling you guys that Martellus Bennett could be a threat in the red zone. Well, Kitna realized that Saturday night. Bennett was a nice third-down option for both Romo and Kitna. He's an enormous target who is too big for safeties to cover and too fast for linebackers. That might have been the best all-around game I've seen him play in a Cowboys uniform. Let's see if he can take it to the regular season.
- Linebacker Leon Williams didn't help himself by missing a tackle in the backfield on Tolbert. And fellow linebacker Victor Butler helped himself big time with a strip sack in the second half that led to the game-winning safety. Butler has had an excellent camp.
- Cornerback Cletis Gordon's the biggest surprise from this camp. The former Charger snagged an interception with his right hand while running step for step with a wide receiver in the second half. If you count practice, I think he has at least 14 interceptions this preseason.
- I like how rookie running back Lonyae Miller runs the ball. He played better than Herb Donaldson on Saturday. I'd try to get Miller on the practice squad. I'm sure he wanted to show off for his former Fresno State teammate Mathews.