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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Cowboys Prepare For First Preseason Tilt With San Diego Chargers

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The Cowboys have their first preseason game coming tonight against the San Diego Chargers. Let's run down all the items worth noting before the exhibition.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys spent Wednesday travelling via the Amtrak train all the way down to San Diego, where tomorrow we will get to see some young players get their first bit of action. Though many of the starters could be limited or not see the field at all, these exhibition games are most important for the young guys looking to make an impression.

Team Departure To San Diego Photos - 8/12 | Dallas Cowboys
These are always a fun little snapshot to see the team as they make their way into San Diego. It's especially hilarious to see the annual Coach Garrett picture as he leans so gleefully out the train.

Broaddus: Church's Coverage, Sleepers For San Diego Among 12 Thoughts | Dallas Cowboys
Bryan Broaddus gives his twelve thoughts before the first preseason tilt tomorrow night and just exactly who may surprise us when given their opportunity.

11) It will be interesting to see, with the preseason games now starting, which defensive end is going to secure that final roster spot. My money has been on Ben Gardner, but there could very well be a challenge from Lavar Edwards or Ryan Russell. There have been snaps where Gardner has been solid but not always consistent. Edwards is a much better pass rusher and Russell now has shown the ability to play inside. There was a time where I wasn't so sure about Russell, but through these practices, it appears that these coaches might have hit on something and in these games we will find that out.

Five Things To Watch In Dallas Cowboys First Preseason Game at San Diego Chargers | Brandon George | Dallas Morning News
Among the defensive ends and wide receivers, George offers an interesting take that most of us will certainly keep our eyes on tonight.

3. Who looks better at QB between Dustin Vaughan and Jameill Showers?: Tony Romo won’t play against the Chargers and backup Brandon Weeden is expected to start. But Weeden might not play long, leaving plenty of time for Dustin Vaughan and Jameill Showers to continue their battle for the potential third quarterback spot on the roster. The Cowboys carried a third quarterback on the roster all season last year in Vaughan. But Vaughan has struggled with his accuracy in training camp, opening the door for Showers. Showers, the former UT-El Paso and Texas A&M quarterback, has also been playing on special teams units to give him an even better shot to beat out Vaughan for the third quarterback spot.

Garrett: Kick, Punt Return Competition Still "Wide Open" - Rob Phillips - Dallas Cowboys
This is something that the coaches will be looking to solve rather quickly. Lucky Whitehead and Reggie Dunn have shown some pretty good things in practice; but there is nothing like live contact to find out where you are.

The most intriguing option is rookie Lucky Whitehead, who might have the most Harris-like traits as a backup receiver and explosive returner. He had a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in his final college game. Fellow undrafted rookie wideout Nick Harwell has also taken turns.

Reggie Dunn, a first-year receiver who spent last year on the practice squad, finished his college career in 2012 as the only kick returner with five 100-yard kickoff returns for a touchdowns in NCAA history.

Dallas Cowboys RB Gus Johnson Aiming To Make Big First Impression Last - Todd Archer - ESPN Dallas
With the injuries to Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and now Joseph Randle; the running back stable is wearing pretty thin. The Cowboys will turn this first game over to the undrafted Johnson.

He went undrafted out of Stephen F. Austin after setting school records in yards in a season (1,683) and touchdowns (23) and being named the Southland Conference's Player of the Year. Teams considered him a little too slow to be a viable option in the NFL.

But teams are often wrong in their evaluations and players can defy odds.

So Who Will Be Returning Kicks For The Dallas Cowboys In 2015? - Dawn Macelli - Blogging The Boys
Other than at running back, the Cowboys biggest void to fill came in the shoes left by "The Dread-Head Kid" as Mickey Spagnola would say. Our own Dawn Macelli offers some insight on on the current state of the position.

Harris filled the "starting" role for the team in each of the past four seasons, and over that time-frame he averaged over 11 yards per punt return and 26+ yards per kickoff. Those are some pretty serious numbers to have to replace, and special teams coach Rich Bisaccia will likely not be able to replace Harris with just one man.

Metrics aside, Dallas Cowboys Realize Value Of Nick Hayden- Todd Archer - ESPN Dallas
In the last two seasons, Nick Hayden has been ranked as the worst or second-worst defensive tackle in football, according to Pro Football Focus. However, like many aspects of the game of football, these metrics don't account for everything Hayden has done while donning the star.

Hayden isn’t a world beater but the Cowboys’ feelings and the PFF ratings show the divide that can arise between coaches and analytics. Optimally the Cowboys would like to play him fewer snaps but they know what he is and that’s, as Garrett said, solid.

Ranking NFL 4-3 Defensive Lines By Weight: Giants Are The Heaviest, Cowboys The Lightest - One.Cool.Customer - Blogging The Boys
Going purely by the weight of each projected starter, the Cowboys look like they could have one of the lightest defensive lines in the league this year. Is that a good or a bad thing? Our own O.C.C. dissects the notion and offers up some very interesting thoughts.

However, overall weight may have been more important in the past than it is today. It used to be that especially the defensive tackles needed to stop the run, take on double teams and anchor to hold their ground. But today, a quality defensive tackle needs to be able to collapse the pocket and rush the passer. They can do this with brute strength and explosion to overpower their opponents or they can do it using their quickness - both lateral and vertical - to get off the snap and squeeze through gaps. What they can't do anymore is just lumber around and stop the run.

Cowboys’ Scott Linehan Trying To Balance Ambition, Family- Mac Engel -The Star Telegram
Many hear about the long hours put in by today's NFL Head Coaches but few understand how the ways of the game can effect the assistants just as much. Scott Linehan, for example, has surely seen his fair share of ups-and-downs.

"I’ve been with five NFL teams since I started this in 2002, and my family has lived with me each time I’ve moved," he told me last week. "I mean, I know there are worse things, but people don’t realize how hard that is."

Is Ray Rice Worth Trip Down Domestic Violence Path For Cowboys? - Tim Cowlishaw - Dallas Morning News
Cowlishaw discusses the notion that Rodney Harrison touched a few days ago. However, his reasoning seems dead-on for why Ray Rice is probably not in the future for the Cowboys.

Beyond that, though, Hardy had two much larger things in his favor that made him a Cowboy and I think will keep Rice from taking handoffs from Tony Romo. One is that there was a lot of ambiguity in the he said-she said Hardy case. Hardy made the initial 911 call asking police to take her away. There's nothing ambiguous about the haymaker delivered by Rice.

2 Minute Drill: Crawford On Chargers Game; Playing Alongside DEs & More - Nick Eatman - Dallas Cowboys
Tyrone Crawford sat down on the train ride to discuss his excitement for the upcoming season and how all the Cowboys moves this offseason can help this team greatly improve.

To think he entered last year with uncertainly surrounding his position as he moved back and forth from end to tackle. But he’s settled into the 3-technique position now at tackle, and could be ready for a breakout year.

BTB Dallas Cowboys Podcast: Training Camp Assessment; Position-By-Position Roster Review - Rabblerousr & McCool Blogging The Boys
Rabbs and McCool sit down for a good long chat about the first three phases of training camp, looking at what the team has accomplished thus far and take time for a position-by-position review. If you haven't subscribed to this podcast, you should.

RB Johnson, Other Young Cowboys Ready To Prove They Belong - Charean Williams -  The Star Telegram
As is the case with the majority of team's first exhibition game, they young players will be playing...a lot. Charean collects quotes and takes a look at some of the guys that will have everyone's eyes peeled.

"It’s a great opportunity for a lot of young guys," coach Jason Garrett said. "They’ve done a good job up until this point in training camp. Typically, they get a chance to play in this game maybe more than the others, so it’s a good opportunity for us to see where they are. It’s a good opportunity for those guys to play under the lights and experience it, positives and negatives and see how they respond."

Deep Blue: A Rich History Inside The Dallas Cowboys Through Documentaries -  Dallas Cowboys
This is something to get excited about. Throughout the preseason, DallasCowboys.com will have documentaries that explore the history of the Dallas Cowboys organization. Each documentary will air on DFW's CBS 11 right before the pregame show. If you are like me and live outside of DFW, don't fret, as the site will have it uploaded for our viewing pleasure, too. In the first one, airing tomorrow, the staff dives deep into the life and career of The Senator Jason Witten. Others to come will feature Jim Garrett (father of Jason Garrett) and the ever so interesting crossed paths of Quincy Carter and Tony Romo. You can watch all the trailers by clicking the above link.