The Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers will begin their 2015 NFL preseason with a game on Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium. The defending NFC East champs are looking to continue the success they had last year and make a run to Super Bowl 50, while the Chargers are hoping to rebound from a poor finish to last season that kept them out of the playoffs for a fourth time in five years.
For Dallas, Thursday will be an opportunity for players looking to earn playing time in 2015 to make an impact. Quarterback Tony Romo sat out Week 1 of the preseason against San Diego in 2014, and he’ll do the same this year after missing practice for three consecutive days. Injuries will force other Cowboys to remain off the field, as well.
Dez Bryant became the NFL’s second-highest paid wide receiver a few weeks ago, but he’ll have to wait before he can play in his first game of 2015. The All-Pro’s hamstring injury isn’t considered serious, though it will keep him out of Thursday’s contest. Defensive back Brandon Carr needed surgery to fix a broken bone in his hand, and he could miss the game even though the injury won’t force him to miss much time.
The injury to Carr could give Dallas’ No.1 draft pick even more time to shine in his first NFL action. Cornerback Byron Jones was taken No.27 overall in the draft, and he’ll finally be able to show off the elite athleticism that made him a first-round selection.
Sean Lee has shown what he can do when healthy, but the linebacker hasn’t played a game since 2013, and he’s hoping to suit up against San Diego. Lee is finally participating in 11-on-11 drills in practice, though Dallas has been cautious with him and could keep him sidelined for the first exhibition contest.
“They’re managing the load, and they’re trying to progress me a certain way ,” Lee said via The Dallas Morning News. “But I’ve felt great the whole time. Every time, I’ve done something, I’ve felt great. I felt great today. And I expect to feel great going forward…The only way to get better in football is playing it at a certain intensity level. That’s why I need to be in there."
Brandon Weeden will get the start for the Cowboys, and he completed 13 of 17 passes in last year’s preseason opener. Unlike Romo, Philip Rivers did take the field in that game, completing all four of his passes. The quarterback is likely to play on Thursday as he starts the year without a contract for next season. He’ll look to connect with wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2014.
All eyes will be on rookie Melvin Gordon, who’s set to play in his first game as a pro. Gordon was the top running back in college football last year, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting after rushing for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns. Third-down back Danny Woodhead is back, but Gordon will get the carries that went to Ryan Matthews a year ago.
"I know I'm going to be nervous, for sure," Gordon said via The San Diego Tribune. "After that first couple of carries, I'll be all right.
"You want to put your best foot forward and put on a show."
It’s the fifth time in six years that the Cowboys and Chargers will meet in the preseason.
Start Time: 10 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS 11 (Dallas) and KFMB 8 (San Diego)
Betting Odds: San Diego -3.5, 38