The work in progress that is the 2011 Dallas Cowboys continued Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium.
The 20-7 preseason loss against the San Diego Chargers produced a mixed bag of good, bad and some unknown.
"It comes down to we turned it over three times and they didn’t turn it over at all. That’s statistic No. 1 in the NFL," Dallas Coach Jason Garrett said. "It’s the preseason, but we need to play better. There are some things we need to address."
The Cowboys are 1-1 in the preseason. They beat the Denver Broncos 24-23 in the opener.
Among the highlights was the running of Felix Jones, the safety play of Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam and the expected Pro Bowl excellence of tight end Jason Witten and linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
Jones has been the most impressive player in training camp not named Ware.
The speedy Jones rushed seven times for 56 yards against the Chargers. Although he had a 22-yard run, his most impressive play was a dart on the Cowboys lone touchdown drive of the first half when he made a defender miss in the backfield and then finished with surprising power.
Jones, who replaced the departed Marion Barber as the starter and is trying to prove that he can hold up as a featured back for the first time since high school, has 10 carries for 79 yards in two preseason games.
He was easily the star of the night for a first-team offense that produced 117 yards in three series of play.
"I think Felix really played well. Felix made some people miss. He really had a good night," Garrett said. "He’s an explosive, dynamic player in space."
Things started ugly with receiver Dez Bryant dropping a pass to kill the first drive. The second drive ended with an interception off Romo, who threw into double coverage while targeting Kevin Ogletree.
Safety Erik Weddle picked it off for the Chargers.
But Romo, playing in his second game since missing the final 10 games of 2010 with a fractured clavicle, showed some of his old magic in rebounding on the next series to lead a Cowboys scoring drive.
Romo completed four of five passes for 34 yards on the drive. Jones had the big play with a 22-yard run. Romo showed the old the mobility that makes him special on the 6-yard touchdown pass to Witten. He scrambled and bought time before finding Witten in the back of the end zone.
"We were moving it on the drive when I threw the interception," Romo said. "It was good to come back on the next series. I just need to make sure I don’t hurt the team with that interception."
Although the Chargers had 10 points and 157 yards against the Cowboys’ first-team defense, the unit had some good moments despite playing without injured starting cornerbacks Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins.
Sensabaugh had a strong game with forced fumble, a near interception that was overturned by replay and a huge hit that knocked receiver Malcolm Floyd from the game with a concussion.
Add in Elam’s tackle for a loss and a pass deflection in the end zone by backup Barry Church, forcing a field goal on the opening drive, and it’s clear the Cowboys are in much better shape at safety than last year when they had the worst pass defense in team history.
The defense is still learning coordinator Rob Ryan’s new scheme.
Communication breakdowns remain a problem.
The Cowboys had to call a timeout because they had 10 men on the field.
But the ugly came on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers to tight end Randy McMichael.
He was wide open in the left corner of end zone because of a blown coverage by either cornerback Alan Ball or linebacker Anthony Spencer.
The Cowboys said it’s only a matter of time before they put it all together.
"We will be good to go," Sensabaugh said. "It is just getting the jitters out right now. Rob has some good stuff and has us out here working."
Said Ware, who had a sack and tackle for a loss: "We are getting some pressure. I’m keeping positive with it. Everything is gradual. Everything will keep getting better."
Clarence Hill, 817-390-7760