The defense, depleted as it is, was about what we expected. Heck, even with the starters out there most of us expect to see plenty of challenges, especially early on. San Diego was able to pass and run at will throughout the evening. That is something you can be sure that we will beat to death over the next few days, but for now let's take a look at some things the Dallas Cowboys can build on.
Ahmad Dixon looked like a heat-seeking missile against the San Diego Chargers offense. It did not matter if it was against Phillip Rivers and the Chargers ones or Kellen Clemons with the twos, Dixon was out there making plays and delivering blows. That is good for him; it proves that the seventh-round draft pick from Waco is bringing it on every snap of the ball and that he can be a playmaker in the secondary for the 'Boys. It is not good for the team though. It is great to see a guy step up and record a dozen tackles but not when he plays safety. The front seven struggling was what made it possible for Dixon to have a great statistical night. Had the former Baylor Bear not stepped up the way he did, the massacre would have been even worse.
They hurt themselves with some penalties on the first series, but the (so called) first team offense was pretty much as advertised in it's first outing under Scott Linehan. Sure the role of Tony Romo was played (admirably) by Brandon Weeden and Joseph Randle filled DeMarco Murray's shoes while guys like Jason Witten and Dez Bryant spent the evening watching football, but the Cowboys were able to move the football. Most impressive was how the first team offensive line was able to clear the way for Randle to gain yards on the ground. Weeden showed little resemblance to the passer who had until recently spent his career in the QB purgatory known as Cleveland. He is working to erase doubts that he is fully capable of replacing Kyle Orton as Romo's understudy.
There were some improvements shown by the coaching staff as well. He may love the vertical passing game, but new offensive guru Scott Linehan displayed a commitment to pound the rock last night. Early and often the Cowboys were able to go to the ground with Randle. Even Weeden got into the act when he gained ten yards scrambling. The head coach made some good moves as well. With time winding down and the defense in position to make a goal line stand, Jason Garrett judiciously used his timeouts to set up Weeden and the second team offense to execute the two minute drill. The exercise may not have paid off, but the coach managed to set the opportunity up for his charges.
As I stated to open the piece, it was far from a thing of beauty. It was a massacre. That does not mean that the Cowboys did not get positive answers to some of their questions. There is plenty for the coaches, especially on Marinelli's side, to work on. That will begin once the team returns to Oxnard. For now there are some signs of progress in all facets of the game. The Dallas coaching staff will take those nuggets and continue to work on making the squad a little bit better with each practice.