<img class="aligncenter" title="Cowboys at Chargers" src="http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a157/Trojanhorze/1Dallas.png" alt="" width="409" height="196" />
By TrojanHorse and Lucky Lou
<em><a href="http://www.cowboyspride.net/" target="_blank">CowboysPride.net</a> Writers, Analysts
Vince Lombardi once said, "if it doesn't' matter who wins or loses, why do they keep score?" It's a point well made, and one well taken, but not in all instances. The NFL preseason provides one of those instances, where the final score acts as a formality, having absolutely no effect on team records or status. In exhibition football, wins and losses amount to personal gains of individual teams, and not the numbers aside an image on the Jumbotron.
The Cowboys and Chargers will enter Saturday's contest looking to achieve victories in several areas.
1) Game preparation
2) Development of timing
3) Player evaluation
4) Situational scheming
5) Avoidance of injury
6) Establishment of team chemistry
<span style="color: blue;"><strong>Chargers Preview</strong></span>
The Chargers have emerged as one of the Superbowl favorites for the 2008 season. But just like other franchises, they appear with questions, and will search for those answers during exhibition. Here's a breakdown of what to expect and what to look for on the field.
<strong>Passing:</strong> <strong>Philip Rivers</strong> surfaced as a true offensive leader in 2007, and his playoff heroics earned him the respect of his teammates. Rivers has been attending practices, and performing well, fresh off of January surgery that repaired his anterior cruciate ligament. But don't expect a lengthy appearance, if any, from the Bolts starting quarterback. Instead, you will more likely get a heavy dose of <strong>Billy Volek</strong>, along with an appearance by <strong>Charlie Whitehurst</strong>. San Diego was 26th in the league in passing last year, finishing with a little over 187 yards per game.
<strong>Receiving:</strong> The Bolts struggled offensively to begin 2007, and you can look no further than the receiving corps for the answer. The acquisition of <strong>Chris Chambers</strong> from Miami gave an immediate boost in pass production, along with creating an ease on the run game. Chambers returns for 2008, along with <strong>Vincent Jackson</strong>, who was having an amazing camp, but has missed the last 6 practices with a hamstring injury. Jackson's remains questionable for Saturday's game. The big blow for the passing game is the inactiveness of one of their biggest playmakers. Pro Bowl Tight End <strong>Antonio Gates</strong> will not participate in Saturday's game, and remains questionable for the Chargers' season opener. <strong>Brandon Manumaleuna</strong> will receive most of the reps at the position.
<strong>Offensive Line:</strong> The offensive line was one of the failing units of the AFC Championship game. Plenty of trips to the red zone, resulted in plenty of stalled drives that resulted in field goals. They begin 2008 with Center <strong>Nick Hardwick</strong> unable to participate because of a foot injury, and <strong>Jeremy Newberry</strong> was acquired from the Raiders to act as an insurance policy. The strength of the Bolts offense is strongly dependent on an offensive line that surrender just 24 sacks and allowed backs to run for more than 2000 yards in '07.
<strong>Rushing:</strong> The league's top rusher, <strong>Ladainian Tomlinson</strong>, will sit out another exhibition season. Unlike past years, he enters August still rehabilitating from offseason knee surgery. A key loss to the Chargers roster was LT's replacement, <strong>Michael Turner</strong>, who joined the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent. Also gone is All Pro fullback <strong>Lorenzo Neal</strong>, with services no longer suited for the <strong>Norv Turner</strong> offense. <strong>Darren Sproles</strong> returns, and should receive the bulk of first unit carries. With an injury to <strong>Andrew Pinnock</strong>, rookie <strong>Jacob Hester</strong> will receive time at fullback.
<strong>Defense:</strong> The 2007 Bolts defense ranked 14th overall in the NFL, giving up 17.8 points per game. But this gambling unit also led the league in takeaways, and has new faces in the secondary. <strong>Drayton Florence</strong> and <strong>Marlon McCree</strong> have moved on, and rookie <strong>Antoine Cason</strong> arrives. <strong>Antonio Cromartie</strong>, <strong>Quentin Jammer</strong>, and <strong>Clinton Hart</strong> will fulfill their roles, along with rising star <strong>Eric Weddle</strong>. Preseason games usually show mix and match, so expect many different rotations, as coaches look to evaluate those best suited for the roster and positions. The most anticipated debut will be that of Cason, selected in the first round of April's draft.
<strong>Shawne Merriman</strong> remains the defensive leader, placing 6th in the NFL in sacks last year. <strong>Olshanksy</strong>, <strong>Williams</strong> and <strong>Castillo</strong> anchor a defensive line looking to improve on the 4.1 yards per attempt they allowed opposing runners a year ago. Expect these guys to play hard, but don't expect them to play long.
<span style="color: blue;"><strong>Cowboys Preview</strong></span>
Whew! The summer movie blockbuster season is about over and it's time to trade movie theater seats for football bleachers. And for the Dallas Cowboys and their fans, it couldn't come to soon. Finally, the Cowboys can begin to erase that image of Keith Davis and Terry Glenn sitting like sick and stunned puppies on the sideline bench as the clock wore down to Doomsday against the Giants in Texas Stadium.
That therapeutic process begins Saturday when the Cowboys face the San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium. Equally talented teams, each may have destiny on their hands. I don't know if such a thing has a place in football where wins and losses usually depend on talent, heart, timing and luck and often games end with a twist you had no clue was coming. Just like a Hollywood blockbuster.
I'm sure you can ask the Patriots about that.
As for the Cowboys, here's what we do know-
<strong>Passing -Tony Romo </strong>â€“ He'll be starting only his second season as the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys but he's already set several team passing records. Romo has also gained a reputation as being a bit of an escape artist with his quick feet and improvisational skills. He'll get a couple of series. <strong>Brad Johnson </strong>may not be mobile, may not have the strongest arm and may be too close to the age of 40 for most to be comfortable, but he's a winner with veteran experience and won't throw away the game. Throw in <strong>Richard Bartel </strong>and <strong>Jeff Terrell </strong>who will get a lot of looks during the game.
<strong>Receiving â€“ Terrell Owens </strong>â€“ set Cowboys single season record for touchdowns with 15 in 2007 and looks to improve on that this year. Despite his age, TO continues to be a physical specimen and doesn't appear to be slowing down one bit. He'll take a few snaps and spend the rest of the game on te sidelines. Nine young receivers vie for time opposite TO but pencil <strong>Patrick Crayton </strong>in as the number 2 receiver replacing the released Terry Glenn. Expect to see lots of training camp stars <strong>Miles Austin </strong>and <strong>Sam Hurd</strong>. Fan favorite and Wes Welker clone <strong>Danny Amendola</strong>, will be given chance to shine while <strong>Isaiah Stanback </strong>might return a punt or two and make an appearance later in the game. Pro-Bowler <strong>Jason Witten</strong> might make an appearance or two but <strong>Tony Curtis</strong>, 2nd rounder <strong>Martellus Bennett </strong>and <strong>Rodney Hannah </strong>will see a lot of San Diego sun on the field.
<strong>Offensive Line </strong>â€“ Positions along this unit will be addressed in the draft next year despite returning three Pro-Bowlers <strong>Leonard Davis, Flozell Adams and Andre Gurode</strong>. Former Dallas offensive line coach Hudson Houck returns to will this unit into an even better unit. Questions remain on some of the backups however so expect to see plenty of names like <strong>McQuiston, Lekkerkerker, Kosier</strong> and <strong>Stenavich.</strong>
<strong>Rushing</strong> â€“ Pounder and Pro-Bowl running back <strong>Marion Barber III </strong>is now the starter and despite his running style of delivering more punishment than he receives, he is almost sure to NOT see much time on the field during this game. 1st rounder <strong>Felix Jones</strong>, 4th rounder <strong>Tashard Choice </strong>and returning fullback <strong>"Cricket" Deon Anderson </strong>will get the bulk of the carries this game. Despite Barber's pro-bowl performance, Dallas ranked 17th in rushing for the regular season.
<strong>Defense</strong> â€“ This unit ranked 9th in total defense, 3rd in sacks and tied for 6th in interceptions and 6th in rushing defense. Perennial stars <strong>Roy Williams, Terrence Newman</strong> and <strong>Anthony Henry </strong>return. Newman (slight groin tear) will not see time in this game. Pro-Bowl Safety <strong>Ken Hamlin </strong>has a new contract and starts his second year as the defensive backfield quarterback will see limited duty. Add in <strong>Adam Jones </strong>and the other 2008 1st rounder <strong>Mike Jenkins </strong>at cornerback and this unit will make the job of Pro Bowl linebacker Demarcus Ware even easier. <strong>Tank Johnson</strong> will get a chance to be the beast he proclaims to be. Other favorites <strong>Chris Canty </strong>and former Dolphin Pro-Bowler <strong>Zach Thomas </strong>will also add to the prowess of this team. Expect the names of <strong>Orlando Scandrick</strong> and <strong>Marcus Harrison </strong>to figure prominently in this game.
These teams are two of the most talented teams in the league.
San Diego was on a publicly pre-ordained path to the Super Bowl championship three years ago when the Cowboys defeated them in the season opener.
Both teams went to 9-7 that year. Since, then, both teams have reached the championship game of their respective conferences only to unexpectedly lose.
Demarcus Ware of Dallas will always be tied to Shawne Merriman of San Diego.
LaDanian Tomlinson, the star of the Chargers, was born in Rosebud, Texas and Tony Romo was born in San Diego, California.
San Diego's head coach, Norv Turner was an offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys. Wade Phillips was a defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers.
These teams share a lot of ties and currently, many football experts are predicting these teams to meet in the Super Bowl in Arizona.
It's only a pre-season game, used to get players acclimated to playing against other teams, judge talent, implement new plays and pull together the final team to start the season.
There are lot of signs of things to come-maybe destiny?
<strong>What Really Counts</strong>
Whatever the case, football is here and it's the Cowboys against the Chargers battling for preseason pride and redemption- the Bolts against the â€˜Boys-Texas Heat vs California Cool.
In the end, final numbers will appear on a scoreboard. And to make it matter for Lombardi, a winner will be declared. But for each coaching staff, the wins and losses on the day will be well determined before the 4th quarter ever ends. And as a fan, struggling for months without that taste of NFL football, how can you possibly lose with Dallas and San Diego in a preseason opener?
It's football, folks and Hollywood couldn't write a better script.
I got my popcorn ready. Please pass the butter.