SAN DIEGO The theory thrown out by owner Jerry Jones on this year’s Dallas Cowboys’ defense is that it simply couldn’t be worse than last year. Could it?The Cowboys, after all, allowed the third-most yards in NFL history last season. Some names have changed on the unit, but the early signs aren’t promising.Yes, most of the Cowboys’ projected defensive starters were out for various reasons, but depth has to be a concern.The Chargers’ gained 221 yards and had 15 first downs in the first half on the Cowboys. They also went 3 for 4 on third-down conversions.Rookie running back Branden Oliver had the most impressive half, gashing through the Cowboys’ D for 64 yards on seven carries – an average gain of 9.1 yards. He scored on a 16-yard run that saw him drag Cowboys rookie defensive back Terrance Mitchell the last 5 yards into the end zone.San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers went 4-for-4 with 61 passing yards in the game-opening series he played, while backup Kellen Clemens was 3 for 3 for 49 yards.On the bright side, the defense did force a goal-line fumble in the first quarter when Jeff Heath knocked the ball loose from Chargers running back Ryan Mathews and Mitchell recovered.And, despite the yardage and first downs allowed, they held the Chargers to only 10 points.“The Chargers came out with a hurry-up offense that caught us by surprise,” linebacker Bruce Carter said. “You have to be prepared for anything. I thought we did well overall. We tackled pretty well. We have to get off the field on third down, but overall, we did pretty well.”Carter went on to say the defense will only get better, especially when it’s at full strength. That was echoed by defensive end Tyrone Crawford.“Next week we will get a better feel,” Crawford said. “With the guys we had out there, it felt good; it felt fast. They put a drive on us, but that’s going to happen.”Among the projected starters who did not play include defensive backs Barry Church, Orlando Scandrick (who participated in a few special teams plays) and Brandon Carr; and defensive linemen Henry Melton and George Selvie.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison