The scoreboard says the San Diego Chargers won the football game on Saturday night, but the Cowboys are the real winners. With a team as razor thin as the Cowboys and a plethora of previous injuries, pre-season results simply do not matter. At least that’s the case for this team.
Through the first two weeks of camp, Dallas has lost some 20 players to injury. Key players such as DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff and Jason Witten have been banged up due to on-field problems. The silver lining is that most, if not all, of these injuries are short term. That trend continued on Saturday night when there were no new injuries to report. Even the Dez Bryant injury scare from yesterday will not keep him out of the Regular Season opener, some 15 days away. What that leaves us is a fairly decent start to Saturday’s game to discuss.
The obvious star of the game was Brandon Carr. Jerry and company paid the man a significant amount of money to come in and change the way the secondary looks for the Cowboys. It appears as though Carr is keeping up with his contract thus far, hauling in two interceptions in a little over a quarter of play.
I was also impressed with the offensive line. After playing some absolutely terrible football just one week earlier, the young unit looked legitimate. San Diego’s pass rush is comparable to Oakland’s and the Cowboys’ OL performed like they learned their lesson from the previous week. DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer and former scout Bryan Broaddus said that he would give the Cowboys OL the game MVP if there were such a thing.
Morris Claiborne saw his first action as a Dallas Cowboy and he was also impressive. He looked out of place only twice: once on a completed catch that he stopped immediately and once on a play that luckily did not go to his side of the field. As a young CB with plenty of work left to do this off-season, he showed excellent poise and some skill in stopping the run. San Diego QB Phillip Rivers did not really challenge the rookie so there is more to be determined on him. However, he did his job and appeared to have held his man in coverage in the short time he played.
I have read several articles around the interwebs that stated the Cowboys offense did not perform better in this game than in the previous vs. Oakland. To that I say: Are we watching the same game? Romo moved the ball considerably better and had significantly more time in the pocket, the run game actually existed with DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys made first downs with Dez through the air. I will take that any day of the week in a pre-season game. If they don’t score touchdowns, they don’t score touchdowns. That inadequacy will not worry me until September 5th. In the meantime, I want to see first downs, completions and decent gains on obvious run plays. The Cowboys did all three on Saturday.
My only real gripe with this game was the penalty problem. Even with the “replacement” referees in place, I want to see a little more discipline from all units. Other than that, I do not think we learned much about the Cowboys from Week 2 of the pre-season. There were too many injuries to key starters and not enough time on the field to make projecting assessments for the 2012 season.
I will be looking for a dominant outing against a bad St. Louis team at home on Saturday. If the Cowboys can play well for two quarters and keep St. Louis from moving the football, I will be pleased and excited for the season to begin. A lot of the problems we are seeing have to do with the players that are in the game. When these short-term injuries subside and the STARS of the team come back, the Cowboys 2012 season will begin in earnest.
Now if they get hurt again, the Cowboys are in trouble. But the inadequacy of our Owner/President/GM/Wanna-be-Head-Coach/Ball Boy/Rabble Rouser/Cheerleader/Ticket Salesman/Marketing Guru/etc. in building a team with depth will have to be left for another day’s discussion.
Follow Mark on Twitter (@MrCowboy74) for all Cowboys’ news, updates and opinions.