ARLINGTON -- After three and a half weeks of training camp that now includes two games, the Dallas Cowboys are still having trouble talking to each other on defense.
Actually, they're talking fine. But the messages aren't getting through like they should.
"Our defense is definitely a communication-driven defense," linebacker Bradie James said after the Cowboys' second preseason game, a 20-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night. "We're still working out some kinks."
One big kink happened on the Chargers' first touchdown, a 7-yard pass in the second quarter from Philip Rivers to tight end Randy McMichael, who ran to the front corner of the end zone without anyone going with him.
"That was me trying to get cute with them and double 83 on a call that should have a safety on 81," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said, using the uniform numbers for wide receiver Vincent Jackson and McMichael. "So that's completely my fault."
Ryan is taking the blame because he knows he's asking a lot of his players right now. They have a new defense to learn, and he's not going slow with them.
"We have a ton of our package in. Almost everything," Ryan said. "This is a group I have to learn to find out how much, really, you can game plan and how much you really want to change. We've got great players here. Do you want to cut back or whatever? I love to push the envelope and I am pushing the envelope probably a little too far, probably a little too fast right now."
No matter how much they're being asked to learn, cornerback Orlando Scandrick said it's still up to the players to get it and execute it.
"The playbook's in. And it's big. It's large," he said. "But that's not an excuse. We need to eliminate the mental mistakes, like I said. We're still in training camp. We need to come back, and we need to just go out there and get after it."
Bits and pieces of the potential in the defense are there.
Sunday night, it unleashed aggressiveness in free safety Gerald Sensabaugh, who forced a fumble and came close to an interception. Strong safety Abe Elam had a tackle in the backfield. Reserve safety Barry Church broke up a pass in the end zone and made a strong play for a deep ball, although he was flagged for pass interference.
And outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware recorded his first sack of the preseason.
"Those plays will be there for us to make," Ryan said. "Right now, we're just a step slow on making them. We're a step cautious on getting the right checks. That's a growing process. It's all on me. The guys are really doing a good job handling everything. They're working hard, they're playing hard."
Head coach Jason Garrett wasn't impressed with the communication, either.
"Our communication is getting better and better," he said. "It's not where it needs to be right now. There were some mistakes. They had some easy throws in the flat that we should have been able to handle that allowed them to move the chains a little bit. But there were some positive things."
Ware said communication won't be a barrier to a good season.
"It's good that we're getting it down in the preseason," he said. "From the first game to the second game, there's been a big improvement."
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407