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By David HelmanFox Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — It’s nice to get a reminder that this can be fun.

After a boring and laborious game last week in Denver, that’s exactly what Saturday night‘s 32-18 win at SoFi Stadium was for the Cowboys. It was fun as hell.

No, this wasn’t regular season football. Both the Chargers and Cowboys seated most of their starters in what amounted to a tryout for the youngsters on each team.

But that is the point. Even when the substitutes are on the pitch, it’s possible to play some entertaining football and show off some young talent in the process.

Let’s hope that trend continues for the third and final exhibition game. For now, let’s see what stood out against the Chargers.

Early Returns 

It’s usually dangerous to take on too much from a preseason showing, but we can dispense with caution in this case. To see also : Outdoor Tennis Could Be The First Climate Change Loss Of Sport. KaVontae Turpin made this team on Saturday night.

If we’re being honest, the quick return man could have been insurance for the roster. But there’s no use debating that after Turpin stole the show with two touchdown returns against the Chargers. The first was a wonderful example of his straight-line speed, as he rode his blocks through the kickoff team’s mess for a 98-yard kickoff return.

The second was even more impressive. Throwing an L.A. punt at his own 14-yard line late in the second quarter, Turpin showed fantastic vision and footwork to dodge a tackler first, then tiptoed past his first three blocks before stepping on the gas near his own 30-yard line.

When he reached the end zone eight seconds later, all questions about his future seemed answered.

“Speed ​​kills,” said Turpin. “I took advantage of our blockers and the way they were blocking. I felt like it was great for our special teams unit.”

It’s a fun story for one of the latest additions to this list. Turpin signed with the Cowboys during the first week of training camp, having finished the USFL season as that league’s MVP. That didn’t give him much time to make a favorable impression, but possessing breakthrough speed can work wonders in that regard.

“Clearly, in my opinion, he was the best player I’ve ever seen come out of the closet in the USFL,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’ve been so impressed with him from day one.”

With CeeDee Lamb taking over the lead receiver role, the Cowboys entered training camp without a clear return man. With a full week remaining in the preseason, it looks like they’ve found it.

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Timely Reminder  

Largely canceled earlier this year, Trysten Hill refuses to make things easy for anyone. To see also : Here are Friday’s high school sports results.

This was seen as a pivotal summer for Hill, the young defensive tackle who was drafted No. 58 overall in 2019. Injuries have prevented Hill from having the kind of impact the Cowboys envisioned up to this point in his career, and with so many young people. defensive tackles on this list, this training camp felt like a pivotal moment for Hill to make his mark or lose his spot on the roster.

Saturday night was the biggest indication yet that Hill is trying to do the former. Doing most of his work in the first half, he finished with three tackles and a sack. But calling it a catch doesn’t do it justice, as Hill managed to duck past his defender, get into the pocket, slide the ball out of Easton Stick’s hands and land on him to put the Cowboys inside the Chargers’ red zone.

“I wish I would have picked it up and run for the touchdown,” Hill said.

It was the best play of the past month for a guy who has shined on many occasions during training camp. And not only did he make splash plays, he also got an offensive holding call that negated a 17-yard gain.

“It feels good to see it come to fruition, knowing it’s going to work and then believing in it,” Hill said.

In this case, it seems early to declare Hill a roster lock. His skill set is not as unique as Turpin’s. But another strong performance underscores that it would be a mistake to rule him out, which also shows how difficult it will be for this coaching staff to trim down their defensive line.

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Grier’s Debut 

A groin injury delayed Will Grier’s first game action as Cowboy last week, but Saturday finally offered a glimpse of the other member of the backup quarterback battle. This may interest you : Here are Friday’s high school sports results.

Grier practiced this week against the Chargers. And though Cooper Rush started his second straight preseason game, he turned the field over to Grier in the second quarter, allowing the former third-round pick to lead five possessions.

The results mostly mimicked what Grier has shown in training camp thus far. He averaged a night of 6-for-10 passing for 98 yards and a nine-yard rush, nothing that’s going to set the world on fire.

But the endings he did stand out. His first pitch of the night was a short shot to Jake Ferguson, allowing the rookie tight end to break loose and run for extra yards. He followed that up with a third-and-5 pass to Simi Fehoko, beating a broken defensive back for 11 yards.

“When I cut it, I knew I had no chance of making it,” Grier said. “I’m not shy about cutting it, I’m always going to try to make a shot down the field. Narrow window shots, I think it’s important in this league to get first downs and move the chains. I’m not afraid to make those shots.” .

That has been the undeniable impression of watching Grier up to this point. Early in the fourth quarter, he threw a back-shouldered ball to Brandon Smith, trusting the second-year wide receiver would open up if he turned his body the right way. It worked perfectly, and the 32-yard completion was the Cowboys’ longest gain of the night, setting up a field goal.

Good luck figuring out if this means anything. Rush didn’t seem like a big factor in the backup quarterback race last spring training before stealing the job from Garrett Gilbert at the last minute. What sounds like a very close competition could be just the opposite, depending on who you ask.

At least Grier is playing some entertaining soccer, though, and looks poised while doing so. That could pay dividends as this job audition draws to a close.

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Safety Class 

What a strange world we live in. It’s one thing for the Cowboys to have a solid security group, but even the backups look impressive.

Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson didn’t even smell the field at SoFi Stadium, giving us an expanded look at Israel Mukuamu and Markquese Bell. And once impressed.

Mukuamu, who enjoyed a strong camp in his second season, made an early impact. Stick attempted a deep shot against a Cover 2 look on the fifth play of the game for the Chargers. The ball was slightly deflected, making it easy for Mukuamu to drift down the sideline and snag an easy interception.

“I’m just playing with confidence right now,” Mukuamu said. “I really understand the scheme. It’s my second year in it, so I understand how to make calls and get people to line up.”

The interception is great, but that last part is the important part. Watching Mukuamu, it’s obvious defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is trying to develop the youngster for Kearse’s role in this defense.

Kearse made a name for himself last year at quarterback in this scheme as a hybrid between linebacker and safety, playing equally well as a box safety, coverage player and matchup tool against tight ends. Whether Mukuamu can do it as well remains to be seen, but he clearly has the required skill set. In addition to the interception, he finished with two other pass breakups and four tackles, two of which came at the line of scrimmage.

Bell also deserves a mention there. He’s not the same length as Mukuamu, but the 6-2 hybrid player finished with five tackles in his own right.

Quinn is looking for length, versatility and a nose for football. Mukuamu and Bell have all three and put it on display on Saturday.

Kicker Check-In 

Lirim Hajrullahu and Brett Maher each got more work than they did in Denver. They combined for five total shots: a field goal each and a combined three extra points. Hajrullahu had two extra points and a 35-yard field goal. Maher had two extra points and missed a field goal, but that attempt was just 61 yards away. It feels a bit harsh to criticize the guy for almost losing the logo.

Interestingly, McCarthy opted for a two-point conversion after a second-quarter touchdown, denying the opportunity for another kickoff in the process. Although that also feels like touchy.

One more note: It’s interesting to think about how kickoffs will affect this battle. The two kickers combined for six kickoffs. Maher is believed to have the stronger leg, and he fired all three of his attempts through the end zone. Two of Hajrullahu’s three kicks were returned, though it’s fair to note that one of those attempts was backed by an illegal formation penalty.

Yes, there is some irony in closing a story about entertaining football by comparing kickoff attempts. But if the competition feels close, don’t write it off as an important decision maker.

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports, providing insight and analysis on the NFL’s most visible franchise. Before joining FOX, David spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website, DallasCowboys.com. In 2018, he won a Regional Emmy for his role in the production of “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at the state of Mississippi.

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