The San Diego Chargers achieved the main goals of an exhibition opener. The starters got a little work. Young players got a long look for the remainder of the contest, and head coach Mike McCoy's team left Qualcomm Stadium mostly healthy.
The Chargers handled the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, 27-7. But the score really doesn't matter. McCoy will get a chance to evaluate his team on film for the first time in 2014 against players in another team's jersey. He'll make early evaluations on players, then get ready to travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field next week.
Here are some other thoughts on the Chargers' first preseason game of the year:
Undrafted rookie free agent running back Branden Oliver looked like the real deal. A 5-foot-8 and 208 pound runner who starred at Buffalo, Oliver likely reminds you of another fan favorite -- former Chargers' running back Darren Sproles. He even wears the same No. 43 jersey. Oliver finished with 64 yards on seven carries, including a 16-yard touchdown. He showed quickness through the hole, the speed to get outside and an ability to finish runs. Oliver stood out in a crowded competition for roster spots at running back.
Better execution in the red zone has been a point of emphasis for the Chargers during the first two weeks of training camp. However, San Diego once again struggled in that area against an underwhelming Dallas defense. After an impressive opening drive, the Chargers failed to get in the end zone when Ryan Mathews fumbled diving for the goal line. Dallas cornerback Terrance Mitchell recovered. And in the second quarter, San Diego's second-unit offense could not get into the end zone after a first-and-goal from the Dallas 2-yard line, settling for a 24-yard Nick Novak field goal.
Tony Romo did not play, which means Brandon Weeden got an extended look for the Cowboys. Weeden has a career 70.3 passer rating. But the Oklahoma State product looked like a Pro Bowler against San Diego's defense, finishing 13 of 17 for 107 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown throw to tight end James Hanna. Weeden was not sacked and finished with a 111.6 passer rating.
It's going to be hard to keep CFL product Dontrelle Inman off the 53-man roster. The 6-3, 205-pound receiver showed smooth route running and sure hands, finishing with three catches for 107 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown on a nice deep ball thrown by Kellen Clemens in the third quarter. The 25-year-old Inman gives Rivers yet another explosive playmaker at receiver.
Thomas Keiser showed his 4.5 sacks last season were not a fluke. Playing against backups in the third quarter, Keiser executed a strip sack on a quick pass rush against Dallas quarterback Caleb Hanie. Defensive lineman Damik Scafe recovered on the Cowboys' 7-yard line, and San Diego running back Kerwynn Williams bulled into the end zone from a yard out two plays later. Keiser had another pressure against Hanie later in the quarter.
On the injury front, defensive end Lawrence Guy (shoulder), cornerback Greg Ducre (head) and linebacker Alvin Scioneaux (knee) suffered injuries during the game and did not return. Defensive end Corey Liuget (foot), outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (rest), tight end Antonio Gates (rest), receiver Vincent Brown (foot), cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), offensive lineman Chris Watt (head/neck), cornerback Jason Verrett (shoulder) and cornerback Marcus Cromartie (unknown) did not play.