Cowboys' defense needs lot of work

SAN DIEGO -- It’s best not to get too carried away over a first preseason game, especially one in which five projected opening day starters on defense did not play. But some alarming things happened to the Dallas Cowboys' defense in Thursday’s 27-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Some of the same issues that bothered the Cowboys in 2013 carried over to 2014’s preseason opener.

  • The Cowboys allowed 395 yards, which is better than the 415.3 they gave up on average last season, but still not good.

  • The Cowboys allowed 152 yards rushing on 42 carries. The Cowboys gave up 150 yards or more rushing five times last season.

  • The Cowboys allowed Chargers quarterbacks to complete 14 of 16 passes. Their first incomplete pass did not come until there was 14:24 left in the game. Opponents completed nearly 65 percent of their throws against the Cowboys in 2013.

  • The Cowboys did not record a sack. They only had 34 sacks last season.

"Sometimes they did OK," said coach Jason Garrett of the defense, hardly a ringing endorsement. "I thought in general San Diego was able to move the ball too easily on us ... They ran the ball on us. They threw the ball very effectively."

The Cowboys did not play George Selvie, Henry Melton, Barry Church, Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne or Brandon Carr, who is expected to practice for the first time in camp on Saturday following the death of his mother.

Two players that signed on Wednesday played on Thursday: Korey Lindsey and Johnny Thomas. Lindsey gave up a 70-yard touchdown in the second half.

Of the defensive line, coordinator Rod Marinelli said he saw, "nothing special."

"I didn't see anything jump out at me," Marinelli said. "We will watch the tape and make some corrections and see some of the guys who can hopefully help us."

Perhaps a jump comes when the regulars return, most likely Aug. 16 against the Baltimore Ravens.

"We can make great strides," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "It was just base fundamental football. Not going to run our scheme during the preseason, that doesn’t make sense, (no) game plan. But the good thing is seeing who has heart and who has ability and develop depth. We’re working hard. The young guys want to play. There was a lot of mistakes made, a lot of things we’ve got to clean up, a lot of guys missing assignments and missed tackles. That’s going to happen."

That happened a lot last season, too.

"We’ll get to evaluate them individually, but for the most part we didn’t make enough stops on defense," Garrett said. "We’ll go back and look at that and hopefully improve upon that."