When the Dallas Cowboys face the San Diego Chargers on Saturday, it may be a preview to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys faced the Chargers in 2009 and while the final score to the game was close, 20-17 in favor of the Chargers, there were some noticeable take aways from the game. The most disconcerting being that the Cowboys defense was unable to stop the Chargers offense.
This game is merely a bridge between last weeks game and next week’s dress rehearsal. Certainly the players on the bubble will try hard, but the Cowboys are looking to escape with zero injuries and some solid game film on their players. If they could only choose one, they would choose the former. With that in mind, the following are worth watching for:
1. The offensive line: Doug Free has played well in his previous two outings and the expectation is that he will continue to play effectively. With Kyle Kosier possibly missing several games at the start of the regular season, heavy focus should be paid to Montrae Holland. Holland has been with the Cowboys since 2008, so there should not be a learning curve. Holland is unable to play center; however, prior to this year, neither did Kosier. The biggest question mark will come from Robert Brewster who will be starting in place of Colombo (knee injury) and in lieu of Alex Barron (sprained ankle). Fortunately, it appears the Cowboys will be proactive with the first team, especially Romo. If the offensive line is unable to protect Romo early in the game, the Cowboys will adjust their play calling accordingly.
2. Injuries: Without a doubt, depth at the offensive line is being tested. If Gurode or Davis happen to go down with injury, it would simply add to the nightmare. If Holland and Brewster have mental mistakes which lead to unabated shots at Romo or the triumvirate of running backs, the injury concerns could continue to mount. The good news is that the Cowboys are playing the Chargers. The same Cowboys defense that had difficulty getting the Chargers offense off the field in 2009 should prevent the offense from having to play more than three series, all of which could be 3 and outs. So there is a silver lining to the Chargers offense outmatching the Cowboys defense.
3. Ogletree: Kevin Ogletree has struggled in the first two pre-season games and reportedly as well in practice. His past practice week was improved; hopefully that translates to productivity and catches with zero drops. Ogletree has been embraced by most Cowboys fans and it would be disappointing if he were cut for struggling in his sophomore campaign. With the depth at wide receiver, Ogletree is most likely competing against Sam Hurd for the final spot at WR. Hurd is an outstanding special teams player, so Ogletree must play at a high level when given the opportunity. One thing that is in Ogletree’s favor is that he is a cheap player as compared to Hurd’s 1.7 million dollar contract.
4. Extrapoints by Beuhler: This is a not so subtle way of saying we need to see touchdowns and not fieldgoals. No one is pressing the panic button on the Cowboys impotence in the red zone, but touchdowns win games, field goals keep the other team in striking distance. Romo stated that the Cowboys do not gameplan for pre-season games. The suggestion is that this can lead to poor production in the redzone. I disagree considering the Redskins scored six touchdowns in their first pre-season game against the Bills. Unfortunately, touchdowns may not be plentiful against the Chargers who have a solid defense, have a ball control offense, along with consideration of the Cowboys woes at offensive line.
5. Rookies: Sean Lee (2nd round) will have his first opportunity on the field as well as Akwaski Owusu-Ansah (4th round). Both players have been nursing injuries and finally will have an opportunity to make an impression. Owusu-Ansah may be limited to special team returns; however, the return specialists have been unimpressive so far. Titus Ryan is no longer with the team, and Holley, McCann, and Wall do not appear to be mentioned in the same breath as Dante Hall, Joshua Cribbs, or Devin Hester. The Cowboys would love to receive production from a drafted bench player and have the opportunity to spare wear and tear on Felix Jones or Dez Bryant. As for Lee, Cowboys fans have been reading about him every since April and we all want our curiosity sated. Is he Bobby Carpenter 2.0, or does he have an internal fire which will drive himself and the defense to new levels. The first step to making that call comes Saturday night.
As for the game as a whole, don’t take too much from it. Holland and Brewster will have to adjust to the speed and power of the starters playing at game speed. As talented as the Cowboys defense is, the players rarely play at game speed. Give all the new players and opportunity to adjust, and hopefully the 3rd and 4th drives of the night will lead to production. From a defensive standpoint, I’m hoping to see a 3 and out or a turnover. I don’t care that a 3 and out isn’t considered a turnover, but it is the next best thing. A turnover can be the the product of one players mistake. A 3 and out is the product of an entire offense being ineffective.
And on that note, I’m officially on vacation. I’ll see yall right around the time the Texans are beating the Cowboys in the dress rehearsal, God forbid.
Topics: Akwaski Owusu-ansah, Alex Barron, Andre Gurode, Cledis Gordon, Dallas Cowboys, Dante Hall, Devin Hester, Doug Free, Jamar Wall, Jesse Holley, Joshua Cribbs, Kevin Ogletree, Kyle Kosier, Leonard Davis, Mccann, Montrae Holland, Robert Brewster, Sam Hurd, San Diego Chargers, Sean Lee, Titus Ryan, Tony Romo