We looked all over for two of the best minds to talk about the Chargers and Cowboys before their Saturday night preseason clash at SoFi Stadium.
They turned us all down.
So we went with our lead writers at our sister sites at HowBoutThem.com and MyLASports.com, Darren Cooper and Matt Boecker, to talk about what each team has going for them – and doesn’t – heading into Preseason Week No. 2.
Here’s the text of their chat:
Chargers vs. Cowboys preseason preview
Darren Cooper: Matt, what’s been the biggest thing to come out of Cowboys pre-season to this point? Is it that they still think Zeke is a No. 1 running back?
Matt Boecker: People are expecting big things out of Zeke this season because he tore his PCL in Week 4 of last year, so it’s easy to blame some of his rough season on that. But I’d say the biggest storyline is the lack of free agency moves Jerry Jones and the front office made. They didn’t bring in any big-name receivers, and a few injuries have made that a very thin position grouping for them. How about the Chargers? Has it been mainly positive or negative reports coming from camp so far?
Darren: The biggest thing with the Chargers, I think, has just been dealing with the weight of the expectations. A lot of smart people believe the Chargers are a real competitor in the AFC and believe Justin Herbert is the Real Deal.
Matt: Speaking of Herbert, did you see he’s got the best odds for most passing yards in the AFC West? Could that actually happen in a division with Mahomes, Wilson and Carr?
Darren: You know, I am actually in the camp that thinks that Mahomes is going to struggle without Tyreek Hill, and I think the Broncos are a house of cards, even with Wilson. So yes, with Herbert, the Chargers are in a good spot and I think he will throw for a lot of yards. I might take that bet. What was your main takeaway from the first Cowboys preseason game? Did they look good or bad?
Matt: Not a lot of positives, unfortunately. They were the most penalized team in 2021 and proceeded to have 17 penalties for 129 yards in the first preseason game. So people were ripping McCarthy to shreds on Saturday night. Very few starters played, but it’s still concerning to see the lack of discipline. How did the Chargers’ Week 1 game go?
Darren: Lord, that’s a lot of penalties. The Chargers played really well, actually. Had some penalties but moved the ball well the whole game. They had a chance to win/tie the game at the end, but Easton Stick (third string QB) threw a pass over the middle that went through the arms of his WR and was intercepted. It really should have been caught. But they didn’t play anyone of note. They started Chase Daniel at QB and he was….serviceable.
I was more impressed with Stick. He’s big and strong. If he keeps playing well, he should be the No. 2 QB behind Herbert because what can Chase Daniel do at this point?
The secondary got burned by some of the Rams WR a few times, but I came away impressed. They looked like a team ready to compete. So do you think the Boys need to show something against the Chargers? Make everyone feel a bit better?
Matt: Even if the Cowboys lose the game, just cutting down on the number of penalties would be a win. One thing fans would love to see is one of the kickers step up and play well. Jerry didn’t do anything to address the position this offseason, so now it’s Brett Maher vs Lirim Hajrullahu; not exactly a battle anyone is excited about. But the offense was so bad in Week 1, that neither player got the chance to do anything. Dallas only scored 7 points.
Darren: Ugh. Maher. He’s not good.
Matt: No, and he played in Dallas before and was cut. So fans are all too familiar with him. How about on the Bolts side, any position competitions to watch out for?
Cowboys, Chargers positional battles
Darren: There’s some chatter about the backup running back spot, behind Austin Ekeler. Josh Kelley ran the ball pretty well on Saturday night and there is a lot of talk about Isaiah Spiller, the draft pick out of Texas AM, but he was only ok I thought. What’s the buzz on the Cowboys draft at this point?
Matt: People are high on the rookies. Tyler Smith was a LT at Tulsa, but he’s playing LG now. The hope is that he’ll fill Tyron Smith’s role once he retires. Sam Williams is a shifty edge rusher out of Ole Miss that people also have high hopes for. But the favorite among fans and media members is Jalen Tolbert. He’s a receiver out of South Alabama. Struggled in Week 1, so people will be watching him like a hawk in Week 2 to see how he does.
Darren: What round was Tolbert?
Matt: He was a third-round selection, pick no. 88. Based on the history of that number in Dallas, I’m hopeful it will bring him some positive mojo.
Darren: The Chargers took Jordan Davis, a big DT out of Georgia in the first round. He looks the part – all the Georgia guys look the part – he didn’t make that big of an impact against the Rams, but I bet he plays a lot against the Cowboys.
It’s weird this shorter preseason now, isn’t it? I almost feel like the coaches aren’t 100 percent sure what to do with three games, not four. Like some teams are playing nobody, some are playing starters in week 1, but not week 3, and some are playing guys in Week 3, but not in Week 1.
Matt: Yeah, three games is kind of an awkward number. Mike McCarthy said Cowboys starters will sit games 1 and 2 and treat game 3 like a walkthrough. I saw Brandon Staley was getting heat for benching Herbert in Week 1. Will he or any other starters play Week 2, you think?
Darren: Herbert isn’t going to play at all in the preseason, no way. He’s too valuable, in fact, he’s never played in a pre-season game. There was no preseason in 2020 because of COVID, and then he was the starter last year, so they kept him out. There’s talk he may -never- play in a preseason game in his career. Which I find funny.
Matt: It’s clearly working for him!
Darren: I don’t think Keenan Allen will play, or Ekeler. I am kinda curious what they do with their two big free agent signings; the Chargers grabbed Khalil Mack….actually, he was in a trade….and JC Jackson out of New England. They may need some reps at some point, and I think if there is a week to do it, this would be it. And yes, on Herbert. But I go back to the same thing with the Chargers….
And that is that this is still a team/franchise learning how to win at an elite level. Yes, Herbert is good, but remember, they found a way to lose in Week 17 last year to the Raiders, it’s not like they were in the playoffs, and the Chargers recent history is full of heartbreak….sort of like the Cowboys….
Matt: Don’t get me started on playoff heartbreak, that’s the Cowboys forte. With the loss of Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson and Randy Gregory, even Cowboys fans have set the team’s ceiling at (maybe) winning a game or two in the playoffs. How far do you see the Chargers going this year?
Darren: Wow, what a good question….let me think on that for a second.
I worry about them putting all their eggs in the Herbert basket. We’re treating him like an NFL superstar, but an NFL superstar would have found a way to win that Raiders game, somehow, some way. The defense should be better….although, I’m not sure how much Mack has left in the tank. I think the ceiling is a playoff team, 10 wins? I really don’t see them winning the AFC or anything.
But I will bring this back to more present day. What’s a successful performance for the Cowboys on Saturday?
Matt: I would say a win is always big, even if it’s just preseason it’s good to see backups go out and get the job done. It helps you trust them more in the regular season. Second, some better offensive line play. That unit accounted for most of the penalties last week, so cleaning that up would help.
Darren: I think the Chargers kind of need to win. I know people say preseason doesn’t matter, but I think winning breeds more winning. And stay healthy! Everyone always wants to stay healthy.
Matt: Last thing would be having the receivers step up. CeeDee Lamb tops the Cowboys depth chart and Michael Gallup is WR2, but Gallup will be hurt to start the year. So after that things get thin and the Cowboys really need someone to step up. Please, no injuries! Probably the most important thing for both sides.
Darren: Great talking with you….let’s do it again sometime!
Matt: Yes, we’ll do it again when our teams make the Super Bowl.
Darren: Deal! You buy the tickets though.
Matt: Deal, I hear Glendale is a great place to be in February!