OXNARD, Calif. -- The Dallas Cowboys are one preseason game in, so naturally there is enough evidence to make drastic assumptions. Or not.
But here are a handful of observations from Thursday night's 17-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers. If you’re searching for a positive, the result was 10 points better than last year’s preseason-opening loss to the Chargers.
Finding his way: Devin Street is not a lock to make the Cowboys roster, but he got off to a good start vs. San Diego. And it came after a slow start. On the second series, he was unable to fight through a physical defender on an in-route and was cut short by a yard on a third-and-6 play. But on the next series, Street came up with two tough crossing routes down the field from Dustin Vaughan. He was able to separate himself from the young receivers. As for those young receivers, Deontay Greenberry, George Farmer and Nick Harwell can’t afford the mistakes they made. Greenberry had two drops. Farmer couldn’t make a tough catch. Of the three, Harwell was the best, but he needs to make those “wow” catches to earn a spot. He didn’t do that.
What about this guy?: For some reason, the backup running backs have become like backup quarterbacks this offseason. Everybody is enthralled with Gus Johnson and Lache Seastrunk. Well, at least there are people who think they can be contributors. Seastrunk has big-play ability but he has frustrated coaches with his inability to stick with the play that’s called. He freelances way too much and can turn a 2-yard gain into a 5-yard loss. That infuriates coaches. But if you noticed Tyler Clutts playing in the third-down package in the second half over Seastrunk, you’ll see why he won’t make it. He simply doesn’t know what to do and the coaches can’t trust him. There is more to being a running back than just running the ball.
Growing role: With Jason Witten out and James Hanna suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament, Gavin Escobar received a lot of playing time and caught five passes for 47 yards. He has improved his on-the-line work as a blocker, but his best attribute is working the seams and lining up wide. He can be a mismatch. He nearly had a touchdown grab from Dustin Vaughan on a go-route but was tripped up as he was about to reach for the ball and came up short. He won’t be the prototypical tight end, but he can do enough and allow the Cowboys to stay multiple with their looks. And with the aforementioned receiver worries, he can take some of those turns too.
A new look: Ever since the Cowboys transitioned back to the 4-3 defense in 2013, they have played mostly a nickel defense in passing situations (five defensive backs, two linebackers). They sparingly used a dime (six defensive backs, one linebacker) in 2014 and put it in moth balls after Tyler Patmon was hurt against Jacksonville. But with the additions of Byron Jones and Corey White this offseason, the Cowboys have shown more of a willingness to play six defensive backs. In the first half against the Chargers, the Cowboys unofficially showed their dime package six times. With the likes of Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen and how Philadelphia uses its tight ends, having a defensive back who can handle the speed and athleticism of a tight end and not get overwhelmed physically is a must. The Cowboys can have a much more flexible scheme this year.