Jason Garrett rattled off a list of things that the Dallas Cowboys’ defense did wrong in their preseason opening loss to the San Diego Chargers on Thursday.
They didn’t play with discipline. They didn’t tackle well. They didn’t have gap control. They didn’t run to the ball.
In other words, as Garrett said, “We didn’t make any plays that made a difference in the game.”
That lone exception was rookie safety Ahmad Dixon.
Garrett spent more time gushing about Dixon, the seventh-round pick out of Baylor, than any other player during his daily news conference Saturday.
Dixon led the team with 11 tackles and made several impact plays in the Cowboys’ 27-7 loss to the Chargers. He is expected to be rewarded by getting a few first-team reps in this afternoon’s practice.
“For him to show up as much as he did and as well as he did ... he was fast, he was decisive, he was physical, he knocked them back,” Garrett said. “He made the plays that he should have made and he made some other ones, so it was an impressive debut for him.
“He was a good example for a lot of the other guys as to what we’re looking for. For him to do that in Week 1 of his rookie year, it was impressive.”
McClain, Claiborne back
Linebacker Rolando McClain and cornerback Morris Claiborne practiced in pads Saturday afternoon, although neither participated in team drills.
Both were sidelined for the preseason opener Thursday in San Diego. McClain has been dealing with a quadriceps injury, while Claiborne had tendinitis in his right knee.
McClain said he is feeling good so far after not playing last season.
“My football shape ain’t bad, it’s just the muscle memory stuff, getting used to it,” he said. “I still have so much to learn, so much work to put in, so I’ve just got to take it one day at a time.”
Claiborne, meanwhile, is focused on staying healthy and not getting too caught up with where he is on the depth chart.
For now, he’s behind Orlando Scandrick to start opposite Brandon Carr.
“Football is my main focus, I don’t care who is on the depth chart, where they’re at, where I am right now,” Claiborne said. “My focus is on playing football.”
Quarterback Tony Romo had one of his better practices Saturday afternoon, connecting on a couple of deep passes to Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar.
It was Romo’s first practice in four days, as he was given an extended break and did not play in the preseason opener.
Romo is expected to play in Saturday’s game against Baltimore. Passing game coordinator Scott Linehan, however, said the team has yet to map out a plan for Romo the rest of the preseason.
Asked if Romo needed a certain number of snaps in preseason games, Linehan said: “No. Just make sure he’s getting all the reps, whether it be practice or games, that we feel are necessary to be ready for the opening game.”
The Cowboys waived/injured rookie free agent running back Ben Malena, who injured a quadriceps and tendon in Thursday’s game.
Garrett said the team had liked what they had seen from Malena, a Texas A&M product, and Malena could go on the injured reserve list, assuming he clears waivers.
The club signed rookie running back D.J. Adams (Portland State) to fill the void.
The Cowboys also cut punter Cody Mandell (Alabama) and intend to use that roster spot on a kicker.