NFL Nation: 2014 NFL Preseason Week 2 DAL at SD Observation Deck

The San Diego Chargers achieved the main goals of an exhibition opener. The starters got a little work. Young players got a long look for the remainder of the contest, and head coach Mike McCoy's team left Qualcomm Stadium mostly healthy.

The Chargers handled the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, 27-7. But the score really doesn't matter. McCoy will get a chance to evaluate his team on film for the first time in 2014 against players in another team's jersey. He'll make early evaluations on players, then get ready to travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field next week.

Here are some other thoughts on the Chargers' first preseason game of the year:

  • Undrafted rookie free agent running back Branden Oliver looked like the real deal. A 5-foot-8 and 208 pound runner who starred at Buffalo, Oliver likely reminds you of another fan favorite -- former Chargers' running back Darren Sproles. He even wears the same No. 43 jersey. Oliver finished with 64 yards on seven carries, including a 16-yard touchdown. He showed quickness through the hole, the speed to get outside and an ability to finish runs. Oliver stood out in a crowded competition for roster spots at running back.
  • Better execution in the red zone has been a point of emphasis for the Chargers during the first two weeks of training camp. However, San Diego once again struggled in that area against an underwhelming Dallas defense. After an impressive opening drive, the Chargers failed to get in the end zone when Ryan Mathews fumbled diving for the goal line. Dallas cornerback Terrance Mitchell recovered. And in the second quarter, San Diego's second-unit offense could not get into the end zone after a first-and-goal from the Dallas 2-yard line, settling for a 24-yard Nick Novak field goal.
  • Tony Romo did not play, which means Brandon Weeden got an extended look for the Cowboys. Weeden has a career 70.3 passer rating. But the Oklahoma State product looked like a Pro Bowler against San Diego's defense, finishing 13 of 17 for 107 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown throw to tight end James Hanna. Weeden was not sacked and finished with a 111.6 passer rating.
  • It's going to be hard to keep CFL product Dontrelle Inman off the 53-man roster. The 6-3, 205-pound receiver showed smooth route running and sure hands, finishing with three catches for 107 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown on a nice deep ball thrown by Kellen Clemens in the third quarter. The 25-year-old Inman gives Rivers yet another explosive playmaker at receiver.
  • Thomas Keiser showed his 4.5 sacks last season were not a fluke. Playing against backups in the third quarter, Keiser executed a strip sack on a quick pass rush against Dallas quarterback Caleb Hanie. Defensive lineman Damik Scafe recovered on the Cowboys' 7-yard line, and San Diego running back Kerwynn Williams bulled into the end zone from a yard out two plays later. Keiser had another pressure against Hanie later in the quarter.
  • On the injury front, defensive end Lawrence Guy (shoulder), cornerback Greg Ducre (head) and linebacker Alvin Scioneaux (knee) suffered injuries during the game and did not return. Defensive end Corey Liuget (foot), outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (rest), tight end Antonio Gates (rest), receiver Vincent Brown (foot), cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), offensive lineman Chris Watt (head/neck), cornerback Jason Verrett (shoulder) and cornerback Marcus Cromartie (unknown) did not play.
SAN DIEGO -- With Tony Romo sitting, quarterback Brandon Weeden got his first start with the Dallas Cowboys and showed some inexperience and some promise in the Cowboys' 27-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

In one half of work, Weeden completed 13 of 17 passes for 107 yards and had a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end James Hanna in the second quarter.

First the inexperience. Weeden locked in on his first read early and did not see the whole field. An interception was overturned by a holding penalty but he was staring down Cole Beasley the entire time.

Second the promise. His touchdown showed three things: improvisation, arm strength and toughness. With some pressure, Weeden was forced to roll to his right. Without stopping to set his feet he was able to find Hanna through a maze of defenders in the back of the end zone. As he delivered the pass he was crunched by defensive end Lawrence Guy.

Here are some other thoughts on the Cowboys’ first preseason game of the year:
  • Judging any defense off the first preseason game always comes with hesitation. The Cowboys were without five projected opening day starters. But the same issues that plagued the Cowboys last season -- lack of pass rush, too many big plays -- hurt them Thursday. The Cowboys gave up five plays of 20 or more yards in the first half out of 27 snaps. In the second half they gave up a 70-yard touchdown (albeit with Korey Lindsey at corner and he has yet to practice with the team). The Chargers quarterbacks did not have an incomplete pass until 14:24 remained in the game, completing their first 12 passes.
  • In practicing during camp the run defense has been poor and it was shredded again by the Chargers. San Diego gained 111 yards on 20 carries in the first half on the ground. The defensive linemen have had difficulty all summer getting off blocks and that continued Thursday. The good news was the red zone work. They stopped the Chargers inside the 5-yard line twice, forcing a fumble and a field goal. Justin Durant popped the ball free from Ryan Mathews at the goal line, and Caesar Rayford stopped quarterback Kellen Clemens on a third-down keeper late in the second quarter.
  • Joseph Randle got the start at tailback with DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar sitting, and he was able to show good vision and speed to make up for missed blocks. He finished with 50 yards on 13 carries. Randle also did some decent work as a pass-blocker. His main competition, Ryan Williams, was overpowered on a blitz in the third quarter and gave up a sack. With the Cowboys emphasizing the ground game, they ran it 15 times in the first half for 65 yards. They had two games last year in which they did not run it 15 times.
  • The Cowboys came in with a number of banged up players but also chose to rest some of their regulars, like tight end Jason Witten, wide receiver, Dez Bryant, Murray, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, defensive tackle Henry Melton and Dunbar. Safety Barry Church has a minor ankle sprain and he was also kept out of action. Melton is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He hasn’t missed a day of practice but the team wants to be cautious with his return. With the two days of practice scheduled against the Oakland Raiders next week, the Cowboys want to make sure they are ready for that and the Aug. 16 preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.



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