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Preseason Game #1: Chargers 17, Cowboys 7 – Football Is Back!

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Blog - Preseason Game #1: Chargers 17, Cowboys 7 - Football Is Back!

Welcome, everyone! Have a seat. Take a deep breath and relax, that really just happened.

We've been starving for Dallas Cowboys football and we got to munch on a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Was it a steak with a baked potato and grilled asparagus? Of course not. But dude, it was food!

As is normal in the high-energy preseason jungle, there were a lot of things that we really liked... and some things that we need to work on.

Keep in mind that this was the first preseason game and that in the grand scheme of things it means very little. The starters were mostly on the sidelines, and tonight was mostly an opportunity for the guys looking to make the team.

First Quarter

The Cowboys received the opening kickoff and got to work early. The starting offensive line (from left to right) was Weems, Leary, Frederick, Martin, and Wetzel. All-World talent Brandon Weeden led the Cowboy offense and looked somewhat poised. He hit Terrance Williams on 3rd and long - a reception that Terrance cut back to his right side, picked up a nice block from fullback Tyler Clutts, and picked up a first down.

Terrance Williams looked really nice out there. Even though he gets things going on Tuesdays with his #TWillTuesday hashtag, it might be time to start considering #TWillThursday as an option. With Dez Bryant holding out earlier this offseason Terrance got a lot of work and it shows in his play.

Unfortunately Brandon Weeden couldn't handle a snap from Travis Frederick. The ball sailed over his right side and, I guess since he's in California he thinks he's a Golden State Warrior, Brandon tried to dribble - a football, mind you - and the Chargers recovered it.

Danny Woodhead scored on a nice draw play, Woodhead was the X Factor when the Chargers beat the Cowboys back in 2013, giving San Diego a 7-0 lead. The first team offense, if you want to call it that, for the Cowboys was done after one series. The second team would punt and the Chargers held the ball as the first quarter came to a close.

Second Quarter

The "first team" defense of the Dallas Cowboys played a second series, and boy were they impressive. Remember these words - Tyrone Crawford is going to be a beast this year. He was consistently behind the offensive linemen, and he is absolutely going to wreak some havoc this season.

We finally got a chance to see Greg Hardy in action and he looks like the man that the Cowboys paid for. He looked very disruptive and didn't miss a beat when he had to float out in coverage to cover the Chargers tight end. It's going to be very exciting to see what the defensive line that Rod Marinelli puts together can do.

The Cowboys offense finally got in gear in the second quarter, when second year quarterback Dustin Vaughan put together a nice drive like a set of legos. He hit both Devin Street and Gavin Escobar like a classic 1-2 punch as he matriculated his way down the field.

Gus Johnson, aka The Gus Bus, showed the Cowboy fans what life at the running back position post DeMarco Murray can look like when he bulldozed his way into the endzone for the game-tying touchdown. Darrion Weems looked particularly great as he cleared the path for the Gus Bus down the highway.

Back on defense, Training Camp standout Damien Wilson showed why everyone is raving about him. He had a nice third down stop where he flew through the hole to get to running back Branden Oliver. Free agent signee Corey White also looked incredible. He was breaking up passes and almost had an interception on a shortly thrown pass. Brought in to replace the departed Sterling Moore, Corey White adds some safety (no pun intended) to the corner position.

Unfortunately the Cowboys, Jeff Heath specifically, got shaken by Branden Oliver near the end of the quarter. Oliver turned on the jukes and left Heath on the ground. The Chargers took their 14-7 lead into the half.

Third Quarter

The Cowboys kicked off as the third quarter got underway at Qualcomm Stadium. By this point we were well into the backups and most people had started to order their Gus Johnson jerseys online.

Randy Gregory, Ryan Russell, and Davon Coleman showed that the depth on the defensive line is certainly talented when they were constantly hanging out near the Chargers backfield. Randy Gregory managed to get his first sack in the NFL tonight, which is a big deal! Hopefully this success is going to translate over to the rest of his career.

Lache Seastrunk finally got into the game in the third quarter, but he didn't show anything particularly special. Someone who definitely wasn't special was offensive tackle RJ Dill (which makes me sad because we share a name) as he struggled. The first penalty finally came during the third when Gavin Escobar was caught holding. This is pretty impressive considering that preseason games are usually filled with penalties, it speaks to how well they're coached.

The third ended with Chargers still in the lead, 14-7.

Fourth Quarter

San Diego managed to put a field goal on the board early to stretch the score to 17-7, Chargers. Quarterback/any position you need him to be Jameill Showers got in the game for the Cowboys and he looked impressive. He lacks the touch that Dustin Vaughan has, but he was definitely impressive in limited action. As noted on the broadcast, his game is similar to that of Russell Wilson.

Rookie offensive lineman La'el Collins had a very productive night out in Qualcomm. He's not exactly going to take away the starting left guard from Ronald Leary just yet, but he showed a lot of promise and reason for why he was touted as highly as he was.

Tight end, and fan favorite, Geoff Swaim got in the game for a little while and looked solid; however, wide receiver Deontay Greenberry had a pretty poor night... dropping almost everything that came his way.

San Diego held on to their lead and as the first game of the preseason wrapped up, with the Chargers beat the Cowboys by a score of 17-7.

Final Thoughts

The Dallas Cowboys lost their preseason opener in San Diego last year by a score of 27-7, so we are officially 10 points better at this point defensively than we were last year!

Seriously though, there is a lot to be excited about. Most of the significant starters at the skill positions didn't play, but Devin Street and Gavin Escobar are going to contribute big time to the offense this year.

Defensively, Tyrone Crawford and Greg Hardy are going to be a big problem for opposing offensive linemen. Randy Gregory, Ryan Russell, and Davon Coleman are going to provide a great sense of depth, too. Damien Wilson is well on his way to being Anthony Hitchens 2.0 which, hold your breath, gives the Cowboys a sense of depth at the linebacker position as well.

Gus Johnson has a long way to go before leading the league in rushing, but he definitely helped his case for being on the team tonight. I'm really looking forward to the battle at the backup quarterback position as Dustin Vaughan and Jameill Showers continue to compete.

Get excited, football is back!


Want to share your thoughts on the first preseason game? Email me at rjochoa@insidethestar.com or Tweet @rjochoa!

Tell us what you think about "Preseason Game #1: Chargers 17, Cowboys 7 – Football Is Back!" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!



I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

Game Notes

Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.

Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:

Dallas Cowboys

  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
  • DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
  • DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
  • DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
  • G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
  • LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable

The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.

Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.

The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.

Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.

Atlanta Falcons

  • LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT

It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.

The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.

Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.

So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta

The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.

As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.

The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.

It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.

Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.

Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.

If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.

The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.

In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.

Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.

It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.

The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.

Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

Do Or Die: Chidobe Awuzie Must Improve Sunday, Or Cowboys Season Could End

Kevin Brady

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Will Chidobe Awuzie's Return Benefit The Cowboys' Defense?

Coming into the season there was a lot of hype surrounding the Dallas Cowboys' cornerbacks. With Byron Jones moving from safety full time, and now second year player Chidobe Awuzie playing opposite Jones after a promising rookie season, there was a lot for Cowboys fans to be excited about.

Through the first 10 weeks of the year, though, only one of those two has maintained fans' excitement. While Byron Jones has been arguably the best cornerback in all of football, Chidobe Awuzie has been damn-near an automatic completion when thrown at.

Awuzie has a -5.8 coverage rating this season, 65th among cornerbacks in the NFL. Coverage rating is a metric which factors in how often a cornerback is targeted as well as how many passes they've defensed per target. Quarterbacks also have a 116.6 passer rating when targeting Awuzie, compared to just 64.5 when targeting Byron Jones. For comparisons sake, Jones' coverage rating is a +45! So you can see why "cornerback opposite of Jones" is becoming a need for the Cowboys.

What's perplexing about Awuzie's season, though, is that he is only giving up an average 0.95 yards of separation, 27th in the league (courtesy of playerprofiler.com). So while Awuzie is playing relatively sticky coverage, he's still being targeted often, and he's still allowing completions way too often.

This week, Chidobe Awuzie will be tested once again, this time by the dynamic passing game of the Atlanta Falcons. The match-up many fans are focusing on is that between Byron Jones and Julio Jones, but how Awuzie does against Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu may play a bigger factor in the result.

Both Ridley and Sanu are solid supporting receivers, and considering how much attention the defense typically has to pay to Julio Jones, they tend to get man coverage often. This allows for a precise route runner like Ridley to take advantage of opportunities, and come away with the types of big plays we've seen from him this year.

When matched up with either of these weapons, Awuzie will need to continue to stay close, but play and defense the ball better. He must continue to make it hard on these receivers and force them into contested catches, but hopefully he can improve on his play when the ball gets to the catch point.

Sunday will be another big test for the Cowboys' young defense. And as well as they have played most weeks, this game has the potential to be a season ender if certain guys do not step up. One of those guys who will certainly play a key role in influencing the result in Chidobe Awuzie.



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