The Cowboys wanted Kyle Orton to return as Tony Romo’s primary backup, but they signed Brandon Weeden as insurance when Orton began contemplating retirement in the off-season. The team finally released Orton, giving Weeden the No. 2 job.
Orton is gone and now forgotten after Weeden’s performance Thursday.
The former first-round pick was one of the few highlights in the Cowboys’ 27-7 loss to the Chargers.
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“I thought Brandon did a nice job,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “I thought he handled himself well. The big thing we were interested in seeing is how he conducted himself, how he played the quarterback position, the leadership part of it.
“I thought from my vantage point he seemed to handle that very well and seemed comfortable out there and seemed confident. I think the guys responded well to him.”
Weeden played the first half in place of Romo, who will make his preseason debut Aug. 16 at home. Weeden completed 13 of 17 passes for 107 yards with a touchdown and a 111.6 passer rating.
“There were a couple of throws that weren’t the best ever,” Weeden said. “At the same time, the numbers look good. We kept drives alive.”
The Cowboys had their starting offensive line on the field for one series, an 11-play drive that ended in a punt after two penalties. The only skill position starter he had for the first half was receiver Terrance Williams.
Weeden’s touchdown pass to backup tight end James Hanna completed an 11-play, 80-yard drive. He rolled to his right to escape pressure, and with defensive end Lawrence Guy bearing down on him, completed the pass to Hanna in the back of the end zone.
Weeden took a shot, but it was Guy who left the game injured after the play.
“There was a huge hole,” Weeden said. “I knew it was going to close quick, so I had to throw it as hard as I could and I kind of got off the ground. Anytime you get off the ground, they have a chance to pile-drive you. That’s what usually gets you. He got me pretty good.
“But it never hurts as bad when you complete them and dang sure doesn’t hurt as bad when they’re for touchdowns. I’ll take it. It may hurt a little bit, but I’ll live.”
Dixon gets noticed
Rookie safety Ahmad Dixon wasn’t worried being knocked out of Thursday night’s game with concussion-like symptoms.
Dixon received a concussion test in the fourth quarter after he collided with Chargers rookie running back Marion Grice on an 18-yard run.
“I got a little dinged up,” Dixon said. “It was just a little ‘Welcome to the NFL’ type of blow.”
Before being forced out of the game, the Baylor product saw plenty of action. He finished with a team-high 11 tackles, including one for a loss.
“I learned a lot,” Dixon said. “Coaches threw me out there a little bit early, so I got to showcase my skills a little bit. Overall, I feel good.”
In other injury news:
• Rookie running back Ben Malena left with a quadriceps injury. The Cowboys are seeking to sign a running back since the Texas A&M product is expected to be sidelined a while.
• Rookie defensive end Dartwan Bush, a Texas Tech product, was being evaluated for concussion symptoms.
Randle runs well
With starter DeMarco Murray and backup Lance Dunbar held out, Joseph Randle got the bulk of the running load, rushing 13 times for 50 yards.
Just as impressive was a blitz pickup he had on the team’s only touchdown, and he also had a tackle on special teams.
“It was good to see Joseph get those opportunities,” Garrett said. “He’s really done an excellent job since the start of training camp. He’s grown a lot since he’s been with us. I thought he was decisive running the football, putting his foot in the ground and getting up the field.
“It looks like he saw the field well, saw the holes, saw the soft spots and got north and south. I think you’re seeing him grow and mature right before our eyes.”
Randle understands his job is on the line. With the Cowboys having signed Ryan Williams in the off-season, he is competing for a job.
“It was very important, because I’m supposed to be pushing my way for more playing time and trying to find a role on this team,” Randle said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”