For the first NFL preseason game of the year there are two important things to look for:
1) Did the starters get out unscathed?
2) Who's the new guy that made us take notice?
For the Chargers exhibition opener against the Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium, the answers are:
2) Kyle Emanuel.
San Diego's first-stringers did not play long in their 17-7 win. Most of the guys with more than a couple of years of experience only lasted one series. But good things happened on that series.
On the first drive of the game, the Cowboys were marching under the guidance of backup quarterback Brandon Weeden (Tony Romo never saw the field). They converted a 3rd and 11 and a 4th and 1 to get to the Chargers 32 yard line. Then a bad shotgun snap led to a fumble that was recovered by Chargers defensive back Patrick Robinson all the way back on the Dallas 33 yard line.
That put Philip Rivers on the field and the Chargers QB did what he does. Rivers only threw two passes, completing them both (to Antonio Gates and Keenan Allen). It helped set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Danny Woodhead, who saw his first game action since suffering a broken leg in Week 3 against Buffalo last year.
After that rookie running back Melvin Gordon and the offensive line only played one more series but everybody else got to sit. The first round pick finished with 11 yards on six carries. When he left the man who took last year's preseason by storm made his presence felt again.
Running back Branden Oliver made a scintillating 10-yard touchdown run to end the second quarter. It was in the first exhibition game a year ago (also against Dallas) that Oliver introduced himself to Chargers fans. He was the night's leading rusher once again.
The draft pick that made the flashiest plays was outside linebacker Kyle Emanuel, a 5th-rounder out of North Dakota State. He had a sack on a speed rush and forced a fumble on a punt return.
Rookie 2nd round pick Denzel Perryman, another linebacker, also had a hand in several tackles. Overall it was a nice preseason opener for the Bolts. Even the crowd, more than 58,000 strong, was solid (even though it was about half Cowboys fans).